I just learned that an exceptionally great administrator I once had passed away. My heart is heavy and I started reflecting on all the great things about him that made him a great leader.
Bob was a man of integrity. You knew where he stood on issues, but he always welcomed dialog between staff. Under his leadership was probably the only time I’ve worked as a teacher where the teacher and administration had a healthy, striving, collaborative relationship. We were there to support one another. There was no pointing fingers or blame, we worked together to better the school and help the students and each other. There was no divide between us, we were a family.
I can recall many vivid images of Bob eating at the lunch table with students, tying shoes, giving hugs to kids as they got off the bus, high fiving down the hallway, pushing wheelchairs, putting band aids on boo-boos, playing kickball in the gym, dressing in costume at Halloween (different every year!), and drying tears.
As a leader he did the same for staff; dried tears, advocated for resources, gave constructive feedback, brought in treats for long nights or just as a thank you. Yes, this was before OTES, but he made time for us. If something was wrong he talked with us, not to us. You never felt attacked or less of a person by him, you felt motivated to do better and wanted to do more. He encouraged us to follow our dreams. He shared personal stories. He made school feel like home.
It was Bob that encouraged me to go back to school and work on my master’s in school counseling. “You can do this”, “I will help”. And he did. He’d email me links to articles he had read, helped connect me with people in other districts to talk to and to shadow for a day. He even mock interviewed me and gave me tips. I literally was in tears when I had to resign to fulfill my yearlong internship commitment. He hugged me and said “you’ve got this!” and sent me on my way with a beautiful letter and a letter of recommendation. I still have both letters and I will always treasure them.
I ran into Bob a few years later when he came to my new school - both of us in new positions. I was thrilled to see him of course and told him how much of an inspiration he was to me. Both being in a hurry, we went our ways. The next time I saw Bob was at my father’s funeral. Yes, he read the newspaper, made the connection and came to support me. I was moved to tears (as I am once again as I type this). Again, I thanked him for being who he was and promised myself to really take the time to show my appreciation of him.
Then I heard this news. I missed my opportunity, but I have learned an extremely valuable lesson. First, to appreciate every lesson learned from those you respect and admire. To write them down and practice and incorporate the lessons daily in your life. But most importantly, to tell those people why they made a difference, to take the time to thank them, to honor them.
We need more leaders like Bob. Thank you Bob - I hope to someday be as exceptional as you!