07/31/2014 09:23 am ET Updated Sep 30, 2014

The Die Is Cast

The midpoint of the summer season has passed and the autumn beckons with colder nights and shorter days, and new school years for children. Teachers are starting to prepare and another class begins. I have reached an age when now some of my teachers are no longer teaching and it is a sad realization, and a new appreciation for them that they will not be sharing their wisdom for the next generation. In the end, it is not the building or facilities or grounds that make a school, but the quality of the teachers.

Teachers are often thanked at the end of the year and we move on. They represent preserved moments in our lives. We remember them as captured in a time, as if they would reign ageless and always be in the classrooms in front of desks where we once sat. When we are young everything only seems important if it relates to the present tense. Too young to look back, too old to be sentimental at every leaving. We want to finish a school year and move on. They are often only appreciated the most when we look back and realize as adults how important they remain in our lives. We reserve their memory and their lessons for longer than we might have realized, and that is their gift to their students. To give a student a positive memory of learning is invaluable.

Nearly everyone can readily recall favorite teachers, but often it is not until our school years are over that we realize their significance. I was at a wedding recently, and after the ceremony I said to a former classmate I had not seen in years, the die is cast. It is reference to a Latin phrase once learned and surprisingly nerve forgotten. He looked at me and said without hesitating alea iacta est. I am certain we never thought that all those years ago in a small classroom off a side hallway, that we would recall an ancient phrase after a wedding in a palm tree lined setting far away from that classroom. In school we sometimes care more about our social life and weekend plans than lessons, so it is commendable to capture a student's memory long enough to last a lifetime. To be fair, his mother had been that Latin teacher, but that moment was a beautiful tribute to education. It was a lesson in the continuing influence of an excellent teacher.

It is instinctive that we care about those that care about us. If we are fortunate, we have teachers that care about their students and make their students care about grades not necessarily limited to an end product of an average or degree, but because they want to do well for those that care about them. Teaching that is encouraging and not intimidating as the hopeful objective of each day. The school year brings new lessons to students that will hopefully remain with them until they too attend weddings years later and spontaneously recite lessons fondly, with a new appreciation for those that helped shape their lives.