Before I taught in Iowa, I was a fifth grade teacher in Missouri for four years. We moved to Missouri in large part because my wife found a job first. She was a high school English teacher for two years, before moving out of education for a while. Myself, I substituted for a year, something all teachers should have to do. It gets your feet wet, but shows you all the things you DON’T want to leave for a sub when you gain that classroom of your own.
Anyway, I gained dutiful employment in New Franklin, and my last year there, had the chance to work with a teacher by the name of Sheryl Gann. We worked wonderfully together myself still a relatively new teacher, Sheryl 20+ year veteran. We taught each other things, laughed at our lame student jokes, and just enjoyed each other’s teaching styles. As I moved to Iowa, she was happy for me to be able to move closer to our families as we’d just had a daughter. She lived for her family, commenting about time spent with them, her own kids and grandkids, and her husband.
As time and distance does, we lost contact with each other, but thanks to the power of Facebook, reconnected, and were able to share our families again. Sheryl loved birds, and took amazing pictures of the birds who’d visit her feeders, and she loved seeing the pictures of our now two kids. While we didn’t talk that often, between our sharing of posts and pictures, we each regained something lost for those years.
Sheryl was to retire after the 2010 school year. Having put in her time, she was ready to hug grandkids, spend time with her husband, and just enjoy the simple life a little more. On March 8, 2010, it was posted on Facebook by her family that she was killed in a head on collision on her way to work. By the out pouring of emotion during those following days, it was quite obvious that Sheryl ability to connect with people was quite evident. Former students, family members, teachers, community member all had a story, a positive message that Sheryl had left for them. The lives she touched were countless, and she did that by being a positive role model in her family, her school, and community. Singing and laughing were constantly heard from her room, and while she had a temper, I’m pretty sure that was reserved for a very select few.
I came across this picture from another teacher in New Franklin, a small memorial to Sheryl on the school grounds.
Sheryl was positive living, living and educating with a passion that rubbed off on those around her. I think about Sheryl, and what she’d say when my own head dips or when my attitude would become less than stellar and it makes me smile.
As this year starts, I think about how I can continue to work to be a positive role model for those around me. Sure, we all have those chances to complain, but we can take those issues that we have with students, parents, other teachers or administration, and make them into something more, better for ourselves and those around us.
I work to be more like Sheryl each year. I’d hope she’d be proud that she’s had that influence on me.