Letter: Willard Clapper helped shape dreams
This fall while descending Midway Pass, one of my students said to me, “Mr. T, some dreams can just stay dreams.” Those words of wisdom beyond her years were meant to poke fun at my futile efforts to impress upon her the dream of any teacher, the dream of igniting a lasting passion or unlocking some hidden potential in his or her pupil. No one in my life has ever embodied this dream more than you. Mr. C, you didn’t just dream of influencing your students — you achieved it. I can say this with unequivocal confidence because, at a seminal moment in my life, you planted dreams in my imagination that came to fruition and still define me today. The dreams of my childhood that you helped shape are still my dreams today.
I joined Clapper’s Killers with fragile academic confidence, believing myself a mediocre student at best. You pulled me aside one day and told me I had the capability to excel far beyond mediocrity, and I believed you! Such was your magical ability to inspire. You claimed that I was as talented at social studies as anyone in the class, generating a newfound confidence in myself and an instant love of history. My dream of teaching history was born from that conversation, a dream that I still live today.
The following year, you struck again. Your motivational words prior to the all-school running race gave me a confidence in my running ability that helped me win the race. Again, you shaped the person I became through the boost in self-esteem that your pep talk gave me and the love for running that instantly developed inside me. You sparked big running dreams in me, and those dreams are still alive today.
I would be hard-pressed to recall many details from the daily academic lessons that you taught me during my fifth-grade year, though I am confident I learned much under your tutelage, but your words of kindness and inspiration will always be a part of me, as they shaped the man I became. I am Mr. T the middle school teacher in large part because I was fortunate enough to have been taught by Mr. C the middle school teacher. Some dreams do stay dreams. Mr. C, you were an invaluable part of my life. You will be missed!
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