As an educator, we all know these emergencies and dire situations are possible. We always pray they do not arise, but understand to be on guard at any moment. When deciding to become educators, the risk factors are typically far from our thought process and never override the basic yearning to make a difference in the life of a child. These students become our own, and without hesitation, I would risk my life for each of them. I am positive nearly 100% of educators across the globe feel the same selflessness.
And then there are teachers who save lives in other ways…
We all have met those invested teachers along the way; the ones who let us feel the depth of their character by not only departing their knowledge or wisdom, but rather leaving an imprint on our soul by doing one simple thing: Caring. Admittedly, I sometimes forget one of the most profound quotes I stumbled across in my second year of teaching, which has perpetuated my philosophy to this day: “People (students) don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In essence, I could recite any given president’s State of the Union, a Shakespearean sonnet, or quote any American novel classic from memory, but it wouldn’t mean anything without an initial connection.
In honor of teacher appreciation, I would like to share one such example of the most profound mentor in my life who made that connection: a connection so powerful in nature that I will wholeheartedly say I would not be teaching my passion without this man’s presence in my life. He saved me, and provided a beautiful roadmap to my ultimate euphoria and happiness.
This is an acknowledgement found in the back of “If Music Be the Food of Love” (page 362):
I tell a story to my students every year about a 10-year-old girl who overheard her parents discussing their financial problems one evening while she was lying awake in bed. The girl wanted to help her parents desperately but had nothing to sell or give up, except one thing. Having rented an instrument for her to participate in band as a fifth grader, it was the only thing the girl could do to ease her parent’s burden going into sixth grade. The next morning she presented a letter to her band teacher saying she could no longer participate in band. She sat back down in her seat, appeased to have helped, but heartbroken to give up her love for playing. Then, something miraculous happened. The band director called her into the hall from class and asked her one question: “Do you want to play the flute?” She answered, “Yes, with all my heart.” His response was the most important of her life: “Then, I will find you a flute. Let’s go to band.” He patted her on the shoulder and saved her life that day...
Dr. Eric D. Knost: Words cannot express my gratitude, but as you know, where words fail, music speaks. Simply stated, I would not be here without you. Thank you for your words of encouragement and believing in that 10-year-old kid with glasses and braces.
If he just shrugged off my letter, where would I be? I haven’t the strength to even ponder it, nor do I want to make the attempt.
Our story goes beyond that day and in that penultimate moment from my youth. The list of instances where Eric was there to encourage me, lift me up, and be there for the hundreds of other students he taught are too many to count. Eric was teaching more than the black notes on the page; he taught his students about life – before character education had a name. Making the choice to be positive, to make smart decisions about our minds/bodies and the peers we surrounded ourselves with, and to be quality human beings of integrity… this is simply a snapshot of the teaching palette he bequeathed. For many struggling students, he filled gaps no other person could have filled by listening, showing he cared, and believing in young adults who had no one else telling them, “You CAN.”
Because of Eric…
I understand my purpose.
I am a teacher.
I am an author.
I am a professional musician.
I know the meaning of integrity and the importance of character.
I know the difference between being proactive and reactive, and that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
I know how to emote with an open heart.
And because of Eric, hundreds of other young adults have been saved by the presence of music education.
Before my senior year in high school, Eric moved into administration as a principal and later a highly successful superintendent in another district. Eric will now be returning to the home where he inspired so many students and colleagues. It gives me great pleasure to say he will be my new superintendent in the district where we both, in essence, grew up. http://eknostblog.wordpress.com/