Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Lesson of Determination

This lesson was taught to me by one of my seniors during a critique and demonstration in computer graphics class. Joe was a talented art student who could sometimes be a challenge. His use of the vernacular and acting out when frustrated pushed the envelope on more than one occasion. However, he was never disrespectful to me. Joe had a very limited wardrobe. He wore the same pair of worn out sneakers no matter how bad the weather. But I could tell that he made an effort to look his best.

During class one day, as I reached over his shoulder taking the mouse to show him how to apply a particular application, he leaned his head against my arm. It was just a briefly lingering gesture but it spoke volumes. And I definitely wanted to know why. Later that day I met with his guidance counselor about it. She told me that Joe was an amazing kid. His father had walked out years ago when Joe was in junior high. His mother did her best to hold down low paying jobs as she struggled with alcohol addiction. Joe had a younger sister who was a freshman. He made sure that they both got to school everyday and he did his best to rise above circumstance. I was stunned and saddened by this information.

Because of Joe's exceptional talent and creative aptitude for computer graphics, he truly deserved recognition at many levels. In 1977 the Board of Education established the annual Art Commission Award. Each year an a outstanding senior art student is generously commissioned by the School Board to create an artwork for the school's permanent art collection. The concept is predicated on the principle that just as the athletes leave their legacy of achievement behind by way of their trophies so too, do the art students leave their legacy of achievement behind by way of the Board of Education Art Collection.

Without hesitation, I recommended Joe and he was beyond thrilled to be selected for this prestigious and generous award. He created an outstanding and very well-received computer graphics work that has been on display in our high school since 1987. At the senior awards banquet, Joe sat with me and I was honored and proud to be not only his art teacher but his honorary parent for the event, as well.

After high school, Joe went on to graduate from our local community college and today enjoys living in the area with his wife and wonderful family.

Joe taught me the lesson of determination. A lesson, that by his example, I shall value forever.

I Invite you, my fellow teachers, to share a lesson(s) that your students taught you!