To the Times of Ti:
Every time I notice “Teach Like A Champion” by Doug Lemov on my bookshelf at Ticonderoga High School, I think of my 30-year 304 neighbor John Dreimiller. And when I think of John, Wallace Stegner’s description of an “alphabet of gratitude” from “Crossing to Safety” begins to resonate for me. Immediately, I think of the letter C, for colleague.
I am not sure I realized how lucky I have been to have John Dreimiller as a neighbor on the third floor of our beautiful, huge, brick building until we had been teaching side-by-side for almost three decades. I know I never thought of it while we lived through our untenured days together, spending endless hours during and after school talking pedagogy, literature and problems, or while we made the three-year quest for a master’s in English Literature together, leaving at 3 and returning at midnight on our biweekly drives to Albany, almost two hours away. We had both celebrated by starting families the year our educations ended, first with our girls and then with our baseball-driven sons. Together, we went through birthday parties, Halloween costumes, childhood illness, school days, dance class and piano recitals, little league and all stars games, basketball, baseball, NHS inductions, school plays and high school graduations, often sitting side by side. And, I guess I took for granted that this was as it should be.
However, in recent years I have discovered the more important aspect of our friendship and the one for which I have the most gratitude as a professional and an English teacher. John Dreimiller and I talk education. We talk trends and national movements. We recommend books, both for pleasure and for professional growth. We share ideas, titles and changing perspectives. We laugh at the shared history we have created and we challenge each other to think, consider and weigh. John and I have done this in formal settings as well, co-chairing our ELA department, collaborating as the only two Advanced Placement English teachers in a rural school district, and working together to help our students achieve on the New York State English Regents, through its and our students’ changes.
I will miss this next year as he retires.
I am not sure how I have been lucky enough to have spent my professional life with such a neighbor at Ticonderoga High School, but I am grateful. Teaching is hard work, and as teachers we are constantly challenged with students, lessons, professional development and extra-curricular activities. However, as in my personal life where my husband holds the letter L of my alphabet, in my professional life, a colleague holds another. And, as I think about young teachers who have 30 years ahead of them at Ticonderoga High School, I hope they are as lucky to have John Dreimiller next door.