Campbell: Reach out to influential teachers

05/05/2014 2:27 PM

05/05/2014 2:27 PM

I got some sad news from my hometown a few weeks ago: One of my high school teachers – just 41 years old – was battling cancer, and his odds of survival were slim.

The news traveled fast, and soon hundreds of students living around the world wanted to show support for Kris Kishore, the man who’d taught us American history a decade ago at Charlottesville High School in Virginia.

Most of us were too far away to be of much practical help to his family. But many of us jumped at the chance to send him a message at an email address his wife had arranged.

When I walked out of Mr. Kishore’s classroom at the end of 11th grade, my head was full of historical facts. Many of them have faded from memory over the years, but as an adult I can see the bigger, intangible lessons I learned from him.

Mr. Kishore’s Advanced Placement history class was one of the most challenging at the school – the sort of class that has you working late into the night to finish studying. His enthusiasm for the subject would inspire you to work harder, but you still weren’t guaranteed an A on your report card.

I don’t think I realized it at the time, but Mr. Kishore helped me understand that getting ahead meant going the extra mile. Doing the extra credit assignments. Studying well before the test.

Those are the lessons every teenager needs to get through school and succeed in the working world, especially those of us who picked career paths where jobs aren’t plentiful.

I had the opportunity to send him my thanks for those lessons in March, about a month before he died. I’m certain my note was among dozens – if not hundreds – he received in his final months.

We all know teachers don’t get paid enough. But we can at least give them the satisfaction of knowing their lessons will last a lifetime. That all those hours of grading papers and dealing with irate parents and sulky students really did make a difference.

It’s worth the effort of reaching out to those who have shaped us, regardless of how many years have passed. These days, a long-lost teacher or mentor is likely just a Google search away.

Mr. Kishore left us too soon, but he passed away knowing what a huge difference he made in the world. It’s the sort of knowledge that every teacher deserves to get back for all that they’ve imparted to us.

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