I've written a lot of columns over the years. But none like this. I haven't had to.
As we get older, if we allow ourselves to do so, we continue to learn. Not only from things we're exposed to today, but from things we experienced many years ago as students. Because all the things we've experienced and learned since then puts a new lens on the experiences, people and places of yesterday.
When the mental images of the great teachers I've had in my life float around this brain of mine, there is a recurring slide show of the ones who, in those precise, unforgettable life moments, changed me forever. And while I had some truly wonderful teachers in high school, there was only one Virginia Slone. She was known as Ms. Ralston at the time, or, more accurately, " "The Ms." "
The Ms. taught Spanish and journalism, and as a junior I was in the newspaper class. In both my junior and senior years, I was on the yearbook staff. These " "classes" " were the domain of The Ms. You had to be selected to get in. And while she let you know you earned your spot, it was very clear that you were expected to live up to her standards.
And that wasn't hard to do. Not that it was easy, but each of us wanted so much to meet her expectations and make her proud of our individual and joint accomplishments. She had a way of inspiring us and making us believe in ourselves. That's an impact that never goes away.
Over the years, I've always shared with Virginia (yes, I call her Virginia now) any new publication that I've helped launch. After the rollout of entrsekt at ISTE 2014, I went back to California to vacation and, hopefully, connect with Virginia. On a Monday, my wife and I were going through old files and I found the letters from Virginia that spanned my college experience and another dozen or so years after that. We had stayed in contact and I was so happy about that. I regretted that in the last few years, as my kids grew up and I became increasingly busy, we lost touch and the exchange of letters stopped. So, I was excited to travel to my hometown, look her up, reconnect and share entrsekt.
On that Friday, I received an email telling me that Virginia had experienced a sudden health issue that very week and had passed away. I felt a huge loss and even more guilt that we had fallen out of contact.
Luckily, because I was already on the West Coast, I was able to travel to her service. I was so pleased to be there to honor this woman whose impact on me and my life was beyond measure, and whose brilliance and humanity touched so many students' lives.
I'm so very grateful that mine was one of those lives. And I wish I had one more chance to tell her so. That's the kind of impact teachers can have. That's how teachers touch, and change, lives. That's what makes the ISTE community extraordinary.