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It’s all about the footprints we leave

February 27, 2010
Dr. James Phares

Sometimes we never know the impressions that we make on the lives of those we serve in our capacity as an educator. As I started business on Monday, not knowing if we would get a full week of school in because of the weather, an e-mail was blended in with many other e-mails and I almost missed this one from U.S. Navy Cmdr. Michael Steffen of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

This is what it said: "I'm trying to get in touch with my old high school basketball coach, Jim Phares (Staunton River High, Moneta, Va.). He made a positive and lasting impact on me, both in the classroom (history 11th grade) and in sports. I was such a hopeless case, he even tried to get me a date for the prom (which failed miserably).

"Since high school, I graduated from Virginia Tech, received a Navy commission and subsequently went to flight school, earning my 'Wings of Gold' in 1994 as a helicopter pilot. After 18 years of service, numerous deployments around the world, including Iraq four times, I will take command of a helicopter squadron in Jacksonville, Fla., on May 8.

"I know Dr. Phares is much too busy to attend the ceremony, but wanted to pay my respects by sending him an invitation. Any help in directing me to his proper address, e-mail and phone would be greatly appreciated. Please feel free to call or e-mail me at any time."

Sometimes we never know what kind of footprint we leave, sometimes we take our positions for granted, and as teachers and coaches, we believe that no one is really listening, but they are. My return e-mail to Commander Steffen read as follows: "The goal of any teacher or coach is to convey life lessons in the classroom, court or field of play so that the results of the teaching and coaching will manifest itself in the lives of the youth as they grow into adulthood. I would be honored to receive the invitation at 2 Ridge Lane, Elkins, W.Va. 26241. I am tremendously proud of your accomplishments and what you have become. Who you are and what you are about says volumes of what was truly inside you all along. Too bad that we couldn't get a connection for the prom. I do wonder what they (the girls at 'the River') would think of you now. I will not be able to attend, but I will think of you on May 8. I will pray for your command and that you and your squadron remain safe in the defense of our country in these turbulent times. Congratulations and may God bless you in your future endeavors."

The lesson in this is clear. Students, parents, coaches and teachers must understand; the footprints that we leave in others' lives will be remembered forever. It is not always about wins and losses or even playing time. It is about life lessons - the things that our students and players can hold on to that last with them for the rest of their lives.

Respondents in the recent Community Assessment Survey said they didn't know who the superintendent was and wanted to get to know him more. It's a difficult thing for me to talk about me in order to explain who I am and what I believe in. But I can tell you this, it's all about the footprints. The ones I have left and the ones that I want our educators to leave on all the students; even the one who cannot get a date for the prom. They have footprints that one day may lead in the defense of our country and in leadership of our sons and daughters in turbulent times.



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