To John

To my friend and mentor John Helion
A long overdue thank you and congrats,

John,
Dr. Sanford Lopater, someone from my undergrad, one said,
“You’ll be lucky if you have one or two professors
You relate to in college.”
He was right and wrong
He was one,
You were one of the others,
The unmentioned being a spunky Health teacher.

Tonight I drove past your house thinking of old times,
Like Hindu tag and Jack being nimble or late,
Like hanging at the ropes course having deep conversations about PE,
And watching you fall asleep in Denver with a book perfectly perched
On your chest.
Each of those images brought a smile to my face
Because you are the man
Who made whatever I have become happen.
There is something about the way you think,
It’s in its custard of possibility
That has stuck with me all these years.
Whether it was the conversations about teaching up North,
Old ladies doing laps at Columbia, or just your cackle,
All stuck with me with a genius that personifies authenticity
And the true nature of what it means to be a teacher.

Forget all of the professional mumbo jumbo,
ALT-PE, time on task, cross-curricular integration,
Each of those pales in the shadow of who you have been to me,

My teacher.

You taught me how to understand the importance of preparation.
You taught me how to understand there is more to life than the profession.
You taught me what it means to have perspective,
That debate is more than just disagreement, that it’s necessary,
That laughter does not have to be personal,
And that a strength of character is all we really have.

Thank you, my teacher.

So on this night
When I spent too much time at the Side Bar
And made the trip on New and 926 for the who knows what thousandth time,
Thank you, John, for being the teacher than you have been,
I owe you my career.
No go listen to some Clapton,
Start with “Hello, My Old Friend.”

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