Friday, October 25, 2013

The Loss of a Mentor

Today I attended the funeral of probably  my most favorite teacher of all time, Mr. Steve Paun.   I have been blessed to have had many good teachers in my educational career.   I can remember the teachers who really made an impact on my life......Sister Beatrice Ann, Sister Georgina Marie, Sister Ann Patrice from Loretto, Mr. Turner, Mrs. Herner, Mr. Rehurek, and Mr. Paun from DHS.   Sadly, I can't remember a teacher in my undergraduate studies who really meant a lot to me.  When I was working on my Master's Degree at ASU, I had Dr. Kay Hunnicutt, who will always be one of my  favorites.  I know there were others and I can't remember ever having a teacher who I truly didn't like, and that is amazing!

But Mr. Paun was special.   As I look back on his influence on my life, I believe that he was not only a wonderful teacher, but he was truly a mentor to me.  I didn't take a class from him until my senior year and it was speech.  However, he was the teacher adviser for three clubs that I was president of during my sophomore, junior and senior years of high school and he was my first mentor.  I didn't realize it at the time, but he truly influenced who I am today.   It is one thing to have a favorite teacher, but another thing to understand the influence that person had.   He always encouraged my leadership skills and supported me in so many ways.  My respect and admiration for him continues to this day.   He was truly one of the kindest, most empathetic human beings that I have ever known.

I didn't really keep in touch with him through the years, but would sometimes see him when we spent time in Douglas during the summers.   He got out of teaching after he got married to his beautiful (inside and outside) wife, Victoria.   He went to work selling insurance so that he could provide more for his family.  I remember thinking how sad that was to lose such an incredible teacher,  but understood his wanting to have more to support his family.

Several years ago, I found out that Mr. Paun had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.  I remember how sad I was to hear that this vibrant, fun loving, intelligent family man could be struck by this horrible disease.  I knew that he had to be in a care facility because of this.  Today his son said that he was diagnosed at 57 and he died this month at 71.

Since I have been back in Douglas, I have gotten to know his son, Richard.  Richard teaches art at DHS and his wonderful wife is a kindergarten teacher.  Richard is so much like his father. He is an amazing human and teacher.   I have also had the opportunity to see his wife, Victoria.  Unfortunately, she has Parkinson's and her health is not good.   And she is truly one of the good people in the world.

His son talked about his love of family and of the stories he told to his kids as they were growing up.  He talked about his great sense of humor and his kindness.   He talked about his love of poetry and different poets.  I, too, love poetry and never connected that my love of poetry and poets probably came from Mr. Paun's class.

Today one of the priests talked about doubting his faith.  He said that sometimes he did when things happened to people like Mr. Paun and the Alzheimer's that came on so young.  I, too, wonder about that.  I know that there is a reason for everything, but I also wonder why people like Mr. Paun who are so good are taken so young. 

A few weeks before Mr. Paun died, I received a card from Richard thanking me for some things that had happened.  His last sentence said that he knew his dad would be very proud of me.  I think he would, but I hope that he knows that he contributed greatly to who I am today.

Thank you, Mr. Paun, for being such a strong influence in my life and thank you for being my mentor.  You were such a strong and positive influence  and I never was able to say thank you to you.  I hope that I have been able to do that a little bit through your wonderful son, Richard.  The world needs more people like Steve Paun and I feel blessed to have had him in my life!!!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Very Meaningful Quote

Just a short post tonight.   A friend sent me this quote from Maya Angelo.  It speaks to so much of what I deal with in my present position.  It is profound!!

"When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as importantly, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you."

This speaks volumes to me right now!!!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Those we love are never really gone as long as their stories are told........................

I have referred to this quote from my favorite author and my favorite book often.   This is a children's book, but I find the message is for all ages.  The book is The Last Dance by Carmen Agra Deedy.   It is the speaks to the love of families and the cycle of life.  In the story, the grandfather tell his grandchildren that every human being has the right to three  things in life:

To Dance.  The great thing in life is not so much to dance well,
but whether one is willing to dance at all.

To Sing,   Even if you sing off-key.  The crow has as much right to 
a voice as the nightingale.

To Tell Stories.   Those we love are never really gone as long
as their stories are told.

My mom was born on October 8, 1917 and she died on October 6, 2002.  It has been eleven years which doesn't seem possible.   There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about her, especially now that I am back in Douglas.   The other day I was at the ATM early in the morning and a man asked me if I was Margaret's daughter.  I told him I was and he told me he served on the City Council with her and how much he thought of her.   I was very touched by that.

We try to get together as a family and go to dinner during October so we can tell stories to keep her memory alive.  Cameron was only three when she died and I truly believe that he remembers her even more because we get together.  

The last few Octobers things have gotten in the way and we haven't done as well as in the past.  But this year, we were able to get together with Judy, Ken, Teresa, Kayla, Kerri, Chris, Cameron,  and Patrick.  Patrick was here from California and it was so good to have him be a part of this.  

My mom was absolutely crazy about Cameron.  He could do no wrong.  And if you knew my mom, she was always strict with me and with my kids.  But for Cameron, there were no rules...........  Just before she died, we went to eat dinner at Carrabas for Kerri's and Cameron's birthday.  My mom was in a wheelchair at the end of the table.  Cameron did something he shouldn't have and Kerri started to "discipline" him.  My mom said she better not discipline him and she took her fork and tried to poke Kerri's hand.  It was really funny and hard to recreate in words.  So we went back to the scene of the "stabbing" for dinner this year.

I know that she would be very proud that I am here in Douglas with Teresa.  And I know she would be very proud of the job that I am doing.  A job of a superintendent is one of the most difficult jobs around with all of the politics--both local, state and at the national level.  I wish that we could talk as I know she would give me good advice.   But I also know that she would very much approve of the way I have handled things and risen above the negative people who are out there.  

She was one of a kind and many ways and I am proud to be her daughter!!   Her stories will live on in all of our lives.............