Teaching is in my DNA. Even though teaching was not my original plan in life, I couldn’t seem to ignore the call; too many signs and too many situations redirecting me to its path. I have been teaching for 8 years and I never dreamed that I would have such satisfaction in my career choice. I truly love my job! I love helping others understand a concept that they are struggling with. I love making students smile when they are having a rough day! I love seeing my students make connections of the content that I teach in the classroom to their daily lives. I love seeing them several years or so down the road as a productive member of society that made smart life choices. You see, I strongly believe that each student is placed on my roster for a purpose. A purpose that I do not take lightly.
No matter the occupation, there will always be tough days. Some of those tough days for teachers entail working late at night grading and writing constructive comments on assignments, or perhaps having to console a student as they find out terrible news of failing a grade level or maybe making a phone call home that is not productive and you learn that the student has a difficult home life.By far the most difficult news that any teacher can hear is that a student has passed away.
As an eighth year teacher, I knew this day would come but I did not expect it to be nearly so soon. On Friday, September 16th, I received word that one of my former students, Dylan Dalgo had been in an accident. When I was his 8th grade science teacher, I knew him as Dylan McDonald. So naturally, I was hoping there was some confusion and it wasn’t really him. But to my dismay, it was him. The accident had taken his life at the young age of 19. Memories of his bright and fun personality danced in my head. His contagious smile on a sweet little freckled face was stamped in my mind. He was such a joy to teach and an asset to my classroom. Our last conversation was after his high school graduation when he came over to give me a brief hug and encouraging conversation I can’t remember exactly what words I said to him simply because I had so many proud conversations with my former students but I do remember what he said to me. As he began to walk to his family and friends, he said, “Oh, and Mrs. Smith, thanks for not letting me cash in on my lame excuses.” We both laughed because there was a time back in 8th grade when I was giving an assessment to my students and when Dylan walked in to my classroom, it hit him that he had completely forgotten about the test that day. Afterwards, when all tests were dispersed and my students began testing, Dylan walked up to me and whispered, “Mrs. Smith, how much for an ‘A’?” He then proceeded to smile and show me a $10 bill that he had in his hand. I couldn’t help but laugh because I knew he was joking and I sent him back to his seat reminding him that this test most likely won’t be the last one that he forgets about; to learn from his mistake and give it his all no matter what. He wasn’t as successful on the test as hoped but he strived to improve his grade and ended up finishing my class with an ‘A’! It’s funny how students have their own unique way of leaving a special memory of them behind.
I have buried both my parents but I can’t even begin to fathom the pain that comes with burying a child. My heart is broken for his family and especially his mother. The unconditional love of a mother is quite powerful and the pain that comes with burying a child has to be over-bearing. At Dylan’s services, it was so painful to see his family and a large amount of my former students with heavy hearts. I began to think, we teachers love our students so much, but do we tell them that enough? Is it frowned upon? A teacher’s love is not the same but yet quite similar to a mother’s love. We want what’s best for them and we set high expectations because there’s not a doubt in our minds that they cannot achieve it. Teachers impact the lives of students, while making life-long connections that will inspire them to make smart life choices. To teach is to love.
September 16th was an incredibly sad day and I choose not to remember any of my students like so. Instead each year from this moment on, I am dedicating September 16th as DYLAN DAY! I will take time to share with my current students the good of his life story and to remember how short our lives can be. I will challenge them to smile like him, to persevere like him, to shine like him! To challenge themselves to strive for excellence and perhaps pursue a career in science.
Additionally, I encourage all of Dylan’s former teachers to join me in my efforts to celebrate ‘Dylan Day’. Let’s show our students how much we love and care for them!
Dylan, you are missed so greatly and I’m certain the world lost a dynamic future pediatrician. LOVE, Mrs. Smith
Dylan Dalgo, studied Biological Sciences/Pre-Med at LSU