"God must love the common man, He made so many of them..." Abraham Lincoln

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Successful Mann

How about another teacher story? I promise this one doesn't have anything to do with running for the board...

Once upon a time, my husband knew what to do with the rest of his life. Rick wanted to be a teacher. When he graduated from high school and enrolled in college, there wasn't a doubt in his mind about his future. But by happenstance, a family friend who was a teacher told Rick "Don't get into teaching. The work is hard, the pay is lousy, and you'll never find any kind of satisfaction in it." What was said as good-intentioned advice eventually took him on a 20-year detour. And did you know that road to h-e-double-hockey-sticks is paved with good intentions?

Rick worked in the timber industry for years designing machinery for lumber and paper mills. It was a good job with decent pay and benefits as long as the economy was thriving. Oh sure, there were signs the timber market was faltering but we never expected it to drop the way it did. Whole companies disappeared overnight, including the one he worked for. The ensuing job search was timberless and hopeless.

Finally, in a fit of desperate boredom combined with bored desperation compounded by cabin fever, Rick decided to volunteer at our daughters' elementary school. Talk about opening the barn doors! Singing, playing, fundraising, coaching, chaperoning, stapling, cutting, filing, coloring, lifting, toting, moving, shoveling... It was in the midst of all this that Rick realized it -- he was a teacher and it was time to do something official about it.

He also realized something else. He was a "displaced timber worker" and was eligible to receive four semesters of tuition assistance. That very week Rick enrolled in community college, found an educational assistant job, and started his future all over again. Now, more than six years have passed and in less than three weeks Rick will graduate magna cum laude from college (again) with a degree and a teaching certificate. Hooray!

I won't kid you. Going back to college as a middle-aged mortgaged-out student with a wife who has hot flashes has not been easy. It has been hard. It has been grim. It has been upsetting. Truly it has cost far more than the dollar amount might suggest. And to add insult to injury, we're too old to be Homecoming royalty! So has it all been worth it? Yes! Rick came home last week with his first "paycheck" -- a thank-you note from a student.

Along that same line, to all of our family and friends -- THANK YOU! Behind every successful Mann is a herd of helpers. We never could have done it without your love and generosity. You guys are magna cum laude great!

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