If you ask many teachers,
“Who’s your favorite student?”
they very likely to diplomatically respond with something like,
“Oh, I don’t really have favorites. I like them all.”
As a teacher in high schools and universities for 45 years, I submit this commentary with all due respect:
“That’s probably a crock!”
If you are one my students, all of whom are collectively “my kids,” please don’t be offended by what follows. I do have a favorite student. I always will.
My favorite of all time is Babi Scott.
That DOES NOT MEAN that any of the rest of you are not favorites—I can state without a twinge of guilt that I have been disproportionately blessed with outstanding young people in my classrooms.
I could list the names of many students of mine who made “above and beyond” efforts on my behalf. I won’t list any names, but I will list some of the generous acts on my behalf that have been made.
· Flying from Chicago to San Diego to be at my retirement celebration and helping with the set-up.
· Meeting me with regularity of coffee to talk about our lives.
· Confiding to me issues that I now pray for daily—issues that demonstrate the character of those individuals.
· Kept over a dozen letters I wrote in response to letters written to me by a student while in college.
· Reading my blog posts.
· Contacting me to relate a heart-warming story of how I impacated them.
It’s time to “get on with this blog post.” I hope you get at least a taste of how I feel about each and every one “my kids.” If you are in that group, may God especially bless you!
I got a phone call early in the morning on January 1, 2007. It was one of the worst phone calls I’ve every received. The tearful voice of Babi’s husband told me that she had taken her life sometime late New Year’s Eve. I don’t know how many people he called that night, I’ve asked myself many times since then:
Why call me? I was only her high school biology teacher.
I’ve given up wondering that. I realize that I wasn’t “only her biology teacher.” I was her friend. He called me because she often talked about our times together. I am humbled by that.
I wrote this for her memorial service in January 2007. I cried when I wrote it. I choke up every time I read it or tell the story.
I sent a copy to Babi’s parents. I was told they read it at her memorial service. I am humbled by that gesture.
What follows is written in loving memory of a life that was far too short.
Babi Scott is my favorite student.
Let me put that into perspective. I’m in my 34th year of teaching. I’ve had, as an estimate, 4000 students. Babi is my favorite. Not was, but is and will be as long as I have a memory.
I cannot imagine another student taking first place as my favorite from her. I suppose that is possible, but I don’t think any teacher is fortunate enough to have two like Babi in a career.
Babi was my biology student for two courses over two years. The second year course was entirely elective: Advanced Placement Biology. It was not, nor has it become since, and easy course. I’m not sure that Babi liked science as much as she liked my teaching, and me as a person; it was her fondness for me that caused her to take “the hardest class at Monte Vista” as an elective her Senior year.
I’ve had other students take AP Biology and tell me it was “because you are the teacher.” I’ve had many students not as academically gifted as Babi (not that she was a slouch, but some of my students were very bright people) who were favorites of mine. I’ve even had some students who took the time to make contact with me after graduation.
However, Babi went far beyond any and all of that. She made contact after she graduated . . . for 22 years! She learned not only my birthday but how many birthdays I’d had. Every year, I’d get a “pig-themed” birthday card from Babi. Sometimes there were small piggy gifts as well. There were also letters and phone calls, and later, e-mail exchanges. Two friends were communicating, but she was the initiator.
She moved to Kansas, always a source of kidding from me. One year, I attended a conference in Kansas City. She drove a long way to have dinner and spend some time with me. In retrospect, I now know how much that cost her physically. I am deeply touched by the gesture.
I suspect I was one of the first to receive news of new jobs, or other events. I know that she always took the time to visit me and my family when she came back to San Diego. In fact, she’d call me first to find out how to arrange the rest of her time to be sure we could get together.
The living world is a lesser place without Babi.
I am honored to have been known as her friend.
With love and unabashed tears,
It is my hope that you got a bit of insight into the impact my students made in my life through this blog post. I wish I could tell each of “my kids” how much they mean to me in person.
Mr. Downing. Coach. The Chief Chuckaroo. Dr. D.