Teaching is a team effort

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Last Thursday night, my friend Randy, a Sergeant Major in the Alabama National Guard, was driving me back to my hotel following a delightful dinner with him and his wife.
“So who’s your superintendent?” I asked.
“Mitchell Guice,” he replied.
“Hmmm,” I said. “There was a Mr. Guice at Opelika Jr. High School thirty years ago. He took over for Mr. Young when he retired. He was a good guy. I never had him, but he was a good teacher from what I knew of him. He had black, wavy hair and a mustache. I doubt it’s him, though.”
Randy and I worked together some while I was in the National Guard. We taught resilience classes to troops. In the real world, Randy is an educator and has moved up to become the second man from the top, just behind this Mr. Guice fellow. Randy hired me to speak at the in-service for the faculty of Cherokee County Schools. There were roughly 500 people in attendance—no big deal.
From August 3rd through August 10th, I spoke to the faculty of six school systems throughout the state of Alabama. My tour of Alabama took me to Lanett, Mobile, Andalusia, Franklin County, Cherokee County, and Decatur. I got to see a lot of awesome things throughout our state. Most importantly, I got to see a lot of professionals dedicated to improving the life of children through education.
I have the utmost respect for teachers. Without the great teachers who impacted me during my 12 years with Opelika City Schools, I just don’t know where I’d be. I can name every teacher I ever had and even most of them that I never had. Names like Young, Hannah, Fletcher, Stough, and Ley are iconic to students of my generation.
In my day, I feel teachers were respected and admired more so than today. Teachers still deserve the respect and admiration of us all. Due to all the distractions and complexity of modern society, I don’t think teaching has ever been more difficult.
I spent three of the best years of my life in 3rd Brigade 2nd Infantry Division. We were a high speed infantry division. In fact, we were selected to transition to become the first Stryker Brigade in the army. We deployed to Iraq for a year in 2003.
The only issue, which wasn’t really an issue to any of us, was that we were the Brigade Support Battalion. We weren’t out kicking in doors. We weren’t the war fighters. We were supporting the war fighters. We were cooks, medics, mechanics, transporters, supply personnel, and so much more. We cooked their food. We mended their wounds. We fixed their vehicles. We transported their food, water, lumber, wire, and repair parts, and we got shot at and blown up while doing so, yet we didn’t get the glory. We didn’t need the glory. We had a job to do.
I remember my first bus driver. His name was Tommy. He drove bus five. Sometimes Roosevelt would substitute, and he’d sing us army cadences.
I remember the tall man in the cafeteria at Jeter who gave me a free lunch because my milk had leaked from my thermos and saturated the entirety of my lunch.
I remember Greg, the maintenance man at Pepperell, who was so nice to all the kids.
Bus drivers got me to school. Cafeteria personnel fed me. Maintenance personnel ensured that everything worked properly so that I could get a quality education.
It’s a team effort but not everyone gets the glory. Every job is important in ensuring each child has the opportunity for a quality education. Cherokee County Schools was adamant in recognizing their support personnel.
“Jody, this is Mr. Guice, our superintendent,” Randy said.
“Very nice to meet you, sir. Thanks for having me,” I replied.
He didn’t have black, wavy hair or a mustache, so it couldn’t have been the Mr. Guice I remember.
Mr. Guice smiled and extended his hand and said, “I understand you’re from down there where I got my first job, 30 years ago. Opelika. I taught Industrial Arts. I took over for Mr. Young.”
He’s done well for himself. I’m glad he got his start with Opelika City Schools.
Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.

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