Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the celebration of life for my former boss and friend Ron Thorpe. It was an emotional event, full of tears, stories, and reminders of the work Ron wants all of us to continue while we’re on this earth in the physical.
I know Ron was a great man. I experienced his kindness, his passion, his steadfastness, and his determination almost every day for two years. He really believed in me and for some reason, really loved me. His persistence convinced me to join the National Board staff after I had declined his offer multiple times. He gave me huge projects to lead and shape and even when I doubted myself, he had faith that I could complete them. Because I worked remotely from New York, whenever I was in the Washington D.C.-area office, he always made sure to regularly check in with me about work and about me. He wanted to know how I was doing and make sure I was OK. He was a good man.
At his celebration of life we heard stories from his family, friends, and colleagues about the lessons Ron had taught them. It was wonderful to hear from people who had known him since his youth and those who had worked with him professionally all share similar sentiments. Below I’ve shared a few of Ron's teachings that really spoke to me.
- Just do. Don’t second guess yourself.
- Work matters. Do good work.
- Take things one step at a time. One day at a time. It’s the only thing you or anyone else can do.
- Teachers should be treated like thought-partners and rock stars.
- Give with no expectation of getting something back.
Ron truly lived each of these. He carried himself with a confidence that was remarkable. He worked incredibly hard – all the time. We had some late nights in the National Board office and some nights when I left well after the sun had set I’d pop into Ron’s office and he was still there, at his computer with his glasses on, plugging away at transforming the teaching profession. He truly believed that, besides our students, teachers are the most important people in the world of education and that we should be treated as such. He would scoff at the mistreatment and de-professionalization of educators and truly walked the walk when he said teachers should lead their profession. He greatly increased the number of National Board Certified teachers on the National Board staff and put us all in leadership positions so that we could use our expertise to influence and shape our collective work.
And Ron gave. He gave and gave and gave. He was so generous with his time, his words, and his actions. He was a wonderful model in so many ways.
Ron, wherever your spirit is these days, please know that you influenced and shaped so many of us. We are so grateful to have shared time with you on this earth and the lessons you taught us will be multiplied, passed on and lived day after day after day. Personally, I will work on not second-guessing myself too much. I will continue to do good work that impacts my kids and community in positive ways. I will step up my push to ensure that teachers are respected and revered as the professionals we are. I will use you as my model for generosity. It’s easier said than done but I will give and work very hard to expect nothing in return. Most importantly, I’ll model and live this for my students. Thank you for being such a wonderful model for me.