My buddy Mike Durkee set up a gathering for me today with a group of teacher friends to play cribbage and eat some pizza this afternoon. Mike retired a few years ago and I've missed him being at school. We've been good friends since the fall of 1993. Our first year we had adjoining classrooms with a door that connected the two rooms. The door was sort of funky in that it was split top and bottom. The top half of the door would open and the bottom remained closed. It created a sort of "Wilson" situation if you remember the old sitcom called Home Improvement. I think we both knew early on that we were going to connect. We had a similar philosophy. Care about your students and the rest will take care of itself. Mike cared a lot. He was a great teacher with a big heart. I'm fortunate to have him as a friend. When I first left my house as my marriage was ending he was the first person to offer me a place to stay. Will never forget that. My buddy Phil once told me that home was defined like this... If you knock on the door knowing they are going to let you in to stay, that's a home. I've got a home there if necessary.
Shane Stacy (PE and basketball coach), Mike Holz (art and cross country), Web Kurz (social studies and football), and Durk (business and yearbook). A dedicated group of teachers. There are two kinds of teachers. "Paycheck" teachers and the "For the love of it" teachers. Some teachers show up for work every day only because they're getting paid. I'm not saying this group would work for free, but I'm saying that this group cares about kids. One day (hopefully) long from now these guys are going to be lying on their death beds and able to look back and know they made a positive contribution to society.
Interesting fact: Web, Holz, and Shane are all Meridian graduates. The Meridian school district has an unusually high percentage of teachers that graduated from this school. They tend to want to stay in the area or want to come back.
Shane was a sophomore in high school when I arrived at Meridian. I was his track coach for three years. He was a passionate teammate and he's a passionate teacher. He's been the head boys basketball coach for a long time now. That takes bravery. Coaching varsity football and basketball in Whatcom County is nuts. The highest of expectations imaginable in a community that demands winners. Coaches have been fired for not winning state titles. Not kidding. I've got a lot of Shane stories. A few that he would rather I not share, but there's one that stands out to me more than others. It's not playing at the highest levels of high school football in the Tacoma Dome. It's not winning the district title in basketball agains Kings as an underdog. It's from his senior year in track. Shane's not terribly fast, but he worked hard and cared about his teammates in track. He was surrounded by blazing fast sprinters on our track team. He was certainly the fourth wheel in relays. When he was a senior I had to replace him in a 4x400 relay with a younger faster Andy Crabtree. Shane didn't complain and understood. It paid off and we won the 4x400 in our league meet, but there was a moment earlier in the season where Shane contributed in a way I'll never forget. We had a dual meet with Blaine high school. Blaine was the defending league champs and we knew we had a chance to beat them. There were so many dramatic things that happened that day that stood out. Jeb Kratzig, who had just learned to hurdle the previous week, beat the defending league champion in the 110 high hurdles. Every hurdle Jeb swung his lead arm wide and smacked the other kid in the chest. Totally legal, but their coach (Grambo?) was pissed. We lost the final event of that meet, the 4x400. As we were losing that race space-cadet Brandon Hunt (the rim creature) looks at me with a wry smile saying "I got this" and nearly sets the school record in the triple jump beating the same kid that Jeb beat in the hurdles. Again, former league champion. We win that meet 73-72. One lousy point. So many dramatic moments that day. How does Shane fit into this story? Knowing he wasn't going to win individual points in the shorter sprint races Shane opts to run the open 400 early in the year. It's a brutal race. No sprinters ever want to run the 400. They have to be made to do it. It's a minute long sprint that hurts. Kids cross the finish line in absolute agony. Shane wanted to do it. In this dual meet he got third place in the 400. One point. I believe it was Shane's only individual point in a track meet in his high school career. For me, the one point that wins the meet. Shane was involved in a lot of big moments during his time at Meridian. I'm sure I'm the only one that remembers this particular event other than Shane. He's had some big moments playing and coaching sports through the years, but that's my lasting Shane memory. If you get a chance to talk to Shane about this event, be sure to ask him about the arrival back at school after the state track meet that year along with its relationship to his fantasy football team name.
Both Mike Holz and Web graduated from Meridian before I arrived. I think both were in the class of 89. Holz was one of my assistant track coaches my first hear at Meridian. He and his sister dealt with the distance runners. I had no idea what I was doing, but began to figure it out after a couple of years and we won a league title. I always enjoy cutting through Holz's classroom at school to see what kids are working on. He's had some seriously talented artist through the years. It's another way to connect with kids who struggle with math. Letting them know I saw their creations in art class can reinforce to them that they don't have to be good at math to gain my respect or admiration. I had both Holz's and Web's kids in my classes over the past few years. Nice kids from good homes. Bummed that Wesley (Web's son) didn't join us in our golf scramble this past week. Perhaps next year.
In other news I had a few hours after breakfast and got to take Russo down to Lake Padden for some back-trail off leash adventures. Dude lives to snif everything. Well, most things. At least the things worth peeing on. I'm going to really miss my walking buddy over the next year (again).