Just a Teacher?

by Millard J. Driscoll
South Carolina, USA

Growing up on Long Island, I never paid much attention to my father’s profession. To me, he was just a high school English teacher who didn’t talk about work very much.

Just a TeacherHe was always there when I needed him, so like most children I took him for granted. After retiring, my father and mother moved from New York to South Carolina, where Dad took another job teaching high school English.

At age 65, Dad was forced to retire again from the profession he loved. He and my mother lived quietly. We often visited and talked about my job. But we seldom discussed teaching, except regarding my wife, an elementary school teacher. When Dad took ill, we hoped for a recovery, but he went quietly in his sleep at age 75, having lived a full life. Even at the end, I didn’t talk with him about his career.

At the funeral home I greeted my parents’ friends as they entered the room. At 50 years old I was one of the youngest people there. Dad’s friends told me of things they had done together and what my father had meant to them. They made their condolences to my mother and chatted quietly with each other.

Then I noticed six or seven young African-American men and women lined up to sign the guest registry. Honestly, my first thought was that these people, all in their mid 20’s, had come to the wrong funeral. I went out and politely explained that this was the wake for Frank Driscoll. One young woman said yes, they’d seen his obituary in the local newspaper and decided to come. They had been his students 10 years earlier and wanted to pay their respects.

She told me that more of his students would come as soon as they got off work. I was amazed. I welcomed them into the wake and introduced them to my mother. They told me how my father had influenced their lives.

One man said he was coasting on his athletic ability. Dad convinced him to get a better education as a fallback. He did, and was glad later when his athletic career didn’t turn out as he expected. One woman told me how my dad helped her love the works of William Shakespeare by having students relate the plays to their lives and culture.

Another woman told me how she reads to her children every night because my father taught her to take joy in reading. These kind young men and women had remembered my dad and taken time from their busy lives to pay their respects at his passing.

I was almost brought to tears hearing how my dad had influenced these fine people. I had always taken him for granted… but now saw him in a new light. I will never again think of my father as “just a teacher.” He touched the lives of countless young men and women and, in his quiet way, changed their lives.

Originally published as HeroicStories #536 on Aug 2, 2004

2 thoughts on “Just a Teacher?”

  1. My son excels at math and was very fortunate to have completed calculus while in high school. While in college and continuing in math, he discovered not all teachers are the same. I suggested that he go thank his high school math teacher–she was wonderful and had a passion for it. He took me up on my suggestion and thanked her. She appreciated it, but told him he was the first person to come back and thank her.

    Obviously, your dad had a passion for teaching which he shared with so many others, what a gift!


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