Recently our local newspaper published a human interest story about the neurosurgeon who led a team to save the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Her surgeon was born and raised in St. Joseph, Missouri, and was a 1976 graduate of St. Joseph Central High School. In reading about one of our own, it occurred to me that as educators we have many stories; we have stories about ourselves, our classrooms, our work, and most importantly about our kids. Here is the first of several entries entitled: My Story.
It was 5th hour Language Arts at Benton High School. The WORST time for teaching and learning was just after a split lunch period — go to class — eat lunch — go back to class. After lunch that day there was a somber huddle in the corner of Room 206 as friends gathered around Franke. Her mother was dying of cancer. Soon her mother died from cancer. I watched this little girl — a dedicated, grief-stricken daughter who didn’t quite understand what was happening — become the center of our classroom experience that second half of the language arts period as we focused on community and communicated mostly nonverbal support for about 20 minutes.
At 14, her strength was far stronger than her age was old. Franke’s experience led these young freshmen across a bridge of sorrow — a rite of passage honoring how precious life really is and exposing the vulnerability of what normal should be with a mother nurturing a young daughter through the most fragile time of her life. Her experience touched many lives that year in freshman language arts class. Franke credited St. Joseph Benton High School students and staff for supporting her during this sad, frightening time in her life.
Franke’s experience continues to touch many lives. She moved through the tragic loss of her mother. A year or so ago I read in the newspaper about Franke Majewski McDowell who was organizing a benefit walk to Paint the Parkway Pink in support of cancer research. She was the same Franke who was in our learning community a decade or so ago. Franke is now a young mother who hasn’t allowed her own loss to break her spirit. Franke understands how to change tragedy into triumph.
My story is to honor Franke Majewski McDowell who lives out the ultimate hope we have for our students — that they become citizens with a cause and a passion and will to overcome heartache and loss by doing what is good for others. They are citizens who make a difference in our community. I honor Franke Majewski McDowell in My Story of why education matters.
What is your story?