For the last 26 years I’ve volunteered for organizations closely tied to public education. I’ve had long stints as a board member and volunteer for the Clear Creek Education Foundation, Communities in Schools Bay Area, the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Education Division and more. My first recollections of how teachers can change lives are from high school. I had a few teachers who with just a few kind words, gave me the self belief I needed as a student to succeed. I didn’t give much thought to it after that until I saw first hand through my wife the way teachers change lives by caring for each student. Then 27 years ago, I took a job at Gulf Coast Educators FCU and suddenly I had even more opportunities to see how public education changes lives. I began volunteering in the schools and joining organizations in advocating for public education.
But it wasn’t until later that my true aha moment happened. My mother was telling us the story of how a dedicated teacher saw potential in my father. My dad grew up poor in Scotland and he lived in a one bedroom apartment with his parents and brother. The teacher saw so much in my dad that he stopped by the apartment to try and convince his parents that he needed to go to university. The teacher’s persistence paid off and finally convinced his parents that they could make it work. Dad excelled at school and became an engineer. His work would eventually bring him to Texas where we settled. So that one teacher whose name I will never know, changed my father’s life. Beyond changing his life, the teacher changed the entire course of generations to come. Public education is truly the great social escalator.