I would guess that almost everyone has a favorite teacher—an individual who impacted their life in a profound way. I’ve been fortunate to have several such teachers, but today my thoughts are on one in particular.
Jeff Welker was a high school history teacher and football coach. A man deeply dedicated to his profession and to the students for which he practiced his craft. He was passionate about American history and it showed in the way he was able to bring to life the lessons of the past.
His classroom was decorated with military paraphernalia, including an old artillery shell that he would drop on the desk of any unsuspecting student who made the mistake of falling asleep during one of his lectures. A rude awakening perhaps, but a powerful lesson about the importance of remaining present, mentally, in order to learn about the world around you.
That lesson about remaining present made a lasting impression on me as a 16 year old. Coach Welker didn’t just feed us historical facts from a textbook and expect us to memorize the names and dates contained within. Instead, he taught us to hold all the answers at arms length, to be present enough to examine each bit of information critically instead of accepting each as an infallible truth.
In short, he gave me the power to ask tough questions. And this power shook my mind with the impact of that old artillery shell, waking me from the slumber of adolescence to begin seeing the world through my own eyes.
Jeff Welker passed away yesterday in his home. Taken from this world earlier than anyone would have hoped. Even so, the impact that he had on the lives of countless students like myself continues to resonate as a living testimony to the gift his life was to his students. I am grateful to have been a recipient of that gift.