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Day 29: Dean Eichorn, Vice-Principal (Burnsview Secondary School)

October 17, 2012

Some years ago when I was a classroom teacher, my Vice-Principal told me that he desperately needed my help. A student named Matt Martin (name changed) was in serious trouble. Matt had burned his bridges with nearly every other teacher in the school and was now on a reduced program and earning just enough credits to graduate. I was Matt’s last resort to earn a grade 11 science credit and graduate that year. It seemed Matt had some issues. He could be angry, abusive, and at times even aggressive.

The VP was persuasive and I finally agreed to have Matt join my Biology class. The tone of the class changed instantly. Matt was everything he was promised to be and sometimes more. The VP had offered to allow Matt to use his office if he got angry or frustrated and couldn’t cope with a class. There was a day or two when I suggested Matt pursue that option. But Matt kept coming back, day after day, sometimes working fairly well and cooperatively and sometimes not, and the school year (slowly) passed by.

June arrived and to many people’s surprise Matt graduated. Those of us who had taught him breathed a sigh of relief.

A few years later, I was shopping at a local big box retailer when a smiling young man walked up to me with a warm greeting and a big handshake. I recognized him immediately: it was Matt. He seemed genuinely glad to see me. He was working at this store and had been for some time. He was sorry, he said, for being such a pain. He also told me how much he appreciated the efforts of me, his other teachers and the VP in trying so hard to keep him in school and allowing him to graduate. Wow, what a transition in that young man’s personality!

That event stands out as one of the best moments of my teaching career. It reinforced my belief that the troubled, difficult students are the ones that need teachers and other positive role models the most. The “good” kids, the ones that all teachers enjoy having in their classes, probably need us a lot less. If it came down to it, the bright, well behaved students could probably do a reasonable job of teaching themselves.

On other hand, Matt clearly demonstrated to me that the students we have to drag through the system kicking and screaming are the ones who, in the end, may appreciate and need us the most.

Dean Eichorn is Vice Principal at Burnsview Secondary School

Image by Ian Kahn from

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Tami permalink
    October 17, 2012 7:57 pm

    Wouldn’t it be great if “matt” could see this and comment. I think it would be great learning for everyone to hear his perspective.

    • October 21, 2012 4:10 pm

      I couldn’t agree more, Tami. Teachers we’re often left wondering, I wonder whatever happened to …. In this, and many other other instances, it would be great to know the rest of the story.

  2. October 19, 2012 5:07 pm

    Guess it’s true…kids won’t necessarily remember what we taught them, but they will certainly remember how we made them feel.

  3. October 19, 2012 5:08 pm

    It’s personal stories like this that makes me what to cry. A real feel good story that made my day! Obviously, you made a connection with this student that kept him coming to class, and to this day, you are still a big part of his life.

  4. October 19, 2012 5:19 pm

    Great story, Dean! Kudos to you for extending a lifeline to Matt. So often we don’t see the end results and your post is a great reminder about why it is important for us to take risks and give kids a chance. When teachers know get to know their students its amazing how long they are willing to work through the challenges.

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