>One unique aspect about teaching in a small school (even when that school is part of a larger system) is the closeness of community that forms as a result. I got to see that last week at the Honors Banquet, which I still hope to write about soon, but it was even more evident yesterday when we received the stunning news that one of our colleagues had passed away suddenly that morning.
During this morning’s time of reflection on his life, I learned that Drew was only 34 years old. That surprised me not because he looked particularly old but because he seemed so much wiser than his age. I remember running into him in the teacher workroom at the beginning of the year. No doubt I was juggling a pile of last-minute copies and looking generally harassed, and he asked me how the school could have prepared us new teachers better, not just in terms of school but also in adjusting to a new town, since all of us were transplants. As the semester wore on and I began to seriously question my choice of vocation, he listened patiently and always asked one or two incisive questions at a time, leaving me to figure out my answers for myself. His only advice was to make the job entertaining for me, and I took those words to heart with a giant cheese head, fly swatters, a vuvuzela and a screaming flying monkey that I hope would make him proud. He was right, though, for when I am having fun and enjoying my job, I am that much more inclined to try and make learning fun for the students too. From what our students have been saying, that’s what he did and did so well.
It was obvious even in the short time that I knew him that Drew was both respected and loved by the students and staff here, and his passing has brought us together in both grief for his loss and celebration of who he is. This has not been an easy year for our school–the year started with the death of a student, we lost our long-time nurse a few weeks ago to illness, one of our CPO’s is undergoing treatment for cancer, our small school’s principal is retiring at the end of the year, and now we have lost a dear friend and colleague. But it is ultimately comforting, especially for me personally, to see an example of truly good grief, when everyone comes together and walks through it together, pausing when necessary and looking forward when ready.