It was my first day back at work following my father’s funeral. Teaching that day was especially difficult, however being around my students lifted my spirits. I had just finished class when my principal, Clark Luessman, entered my room. He sat down with me and said, “How are you doing?”. I told him that I felt bad about losing one of the greatest mentors in my life. To my surprise, Clark quickly retorted, “You should feel fortunate. You had many wonderful years with your father. It is sad to lose those whom we love, but we must always be grateful for the time we had with them.”
Today, we lost one of the greatest humans to walk this planet - Clark Luessman. He was a magnificent father, leader, mentor and educator. I had the honor of working with Clark since he hired me in 2004. He made it possible for me to try new ideas and to take risks. I certainly would not be the educator (or person) I am today if it had not been for him.
As any of staff members will tell you, Clark created a sense of family within our staff. He valued personal connections. Frequently Clark would come to your room to give you an answer to a question you sent him in an email. He liked to shake your hand and say “Thanks for all you do for kids.” I appreciate that now more than ever.
One of my favorite quotes by Sir Ken Robinson is– “Farmers and gardeners know you cannot make a plant grow…The plant grows itself. What you do is provide the conditions for growth. And great farmers know what the conditions are and bad ones don’t. Great teachers know what the conditions for growth are and bad ones don’t.” Clark Luessman knew the conditions for growth. Our school grew and flourished as a direct result of his genuine care and guidance.
I owe my success as an educator to the support, guidance and wisdom of this great man. His leadership was the rare kind—a relentless quest to provide students with the best education possible, tempered by humility and empathy, and entirely driven by a genuine curiosity and desire to make a difference, not just in the lives of his students (for which there is abundant evidence) but in the lives of his teachers. I consider myself privileged to have been among them.
Clark also used to say “You don’t have to teach, you get to teach.” He wanted us to see the beauty in our students and this amazing profession called teaching. In other words, he wanted us to be grateful. Clark Luessman, I am grateful for you. I am grateful for the times we had talking about education, food, and our Packers. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with you and to learn from you. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for being such an amazing person and leader. I am grateful just not ready.