“A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops.” -Henry Adams
What legacy do we leave as teachers? What lives on beyond our days in the classroom? Today I was sad to hear of the loss of one of my favourite high school teachers, Mr. Eric Ratzlaff–but I also know this wonderful teacher I had at Abbotsford Senior Secondary leaves a great legacy.
Mr. Ratzlaff was funny, kind, smart, and he loved teaching and he had a great way with students. He taught for 37 years, and yet I remember in high school hearing that he was retiring that year and thinking, “It’s too soon!” He had so much energy and passion!
Hearing of his coming retirement, I remember not being aware of what specifically was planned to honour Mr. Ratzlaff (I learned later there was a retirement party), and I remember thinking we as students couldn’t let this teacher go with out making sure he knew for sure he made a difference and was loved by his students.
I remember my friends and I cut up colourful pieces of paper and brought them around to students in Abby Senior and invited them to write their well wishes to Mr. Ratzlaff. Then, we glued the many dozens, probably 200+ thoughtful notes on a giant piece of that long rolled paper you find in schools.
When we presented the giant banner to him, and he was moved and graciously, kindly accepted–but I remember thinking that in his humble way he didn’t seem to grasp in the moment how truly awesome he was in our lives–he was almost embarrassed by the attention.
Mr. Ratzlaff laughed with us later the next day saying how awkward it was to walk home with such a giant rolled up card! We teased him back that we were glad to give him an occasion to really think about the weight of his impact on students!
Mr. Ratzlaff, thank you for giving yourself to teaching, for sharing your joy in learning, and for the way you respected and inspired students. Your legacy lives on–I know I carry a memory of your teaching with me in the teacher I have become, and in thinking about the teacher I want to be.
Thank you, Mr. Ratzlaff, for everything.