Thursday, August 13, 2015

Web's Lifesaving Personality Touches Many




The landscape of my work place, our school, has changed in more ways than one. Besides a big renovation, a beloved coach and teacher and an uncle-type figure of mine has retired. I won't hear "Mornin' Sunshine," his nickname for me, the gal who coached middle school girls' basketball with him for eight terrific years. I won't see his arms swaying as he walks to the gym with his jingling set of keys. I won't see him patting a kid on the back or putting his arm around someone for comfort. We will see him around town though, as the newest addition to the City of Cheney work crew.

Welcome again, Circle of Life guest blogger, Amy Wallace, as she shares what made her connection to Randy Weber extra special.


Web's Lifesaving Personality Touches Many
Guest Post by Amy Wallace

In the Circle of Life, many things are inevitable. Change is one of those things. You know it is a part of life, but it’s hard.

This is a tribute to my friend Randy, who is retiring after 41 years of teaching. 

Randy began his career in 1977 in Zenda, Kansas. There, he taught alongside another recent college graduate by the name of Casey Jones. Casey grew up in Kingman and is my uncle. Once Randy stayed at my grandparent's house in Kingman when stranded in a snowstorm.


Randy Weber (photo courtesy of USD 268)
In 1979 Randy moved to the job in Cheney. I first worked with him when I was the curriculum director at Cheney in 2001.

We quickly made the association to my uncle, and it was fun to have someone in Cheney with an instant connection to my family.

I didn’t see Randy every day back then, but when I did, he always greeted me with “What’s in your Wallace!” It was a twist off the Capital One commercial that was popular then, and it always ended with “what’s in your wallet.” (Click here for an ad with the phrase).

That was Randy’s specialty—nicknames for everyone. When I became principal at Cheney Middle School three years later, he told he needed a more professional nickname for me. From then on I was "Miss Aim."

As a teacher, Randy has all those skills that can’t be taught to teachers in training. First, he loves kids. He loves middle school kids. You simply can’t teach a person how to do that.

Weber & basketball player Reanna Woodard in 2003
He worked hard to connect with kids and get to know them. By doing this, he motivated them in ways we would never think possible.

As a colleague, Randy was the best kind. I counted on him to do anything that was needed. If I needed a class covered, he was there. Needed someone to take an extra duty? Work an event? No problem. Come early, stay late, clean a toilet. Absolutely anything.

And he never expected anything in return.

To a principal, this kind of person on your staff is a lifesaver. We can’t survive without people like Randy around because something always needs to be done. 

As a friend, Randy always had time. When something was wrong, he could tell, and he would never hesitate to check in on you.

Several years ago I was struggling with a difficult pregnancy and missing a lot of work. I walked into the school after being gone several days. There was Randy ready with a big hug.

Over the years we shared many stories about family. Cars that didn’t run, boats that didn’t work, and everything in between. Even though I didn’t spend much time with his family, I felt like I knew them from all the stories he shared.

I’m thankful he taught my two oldest children. Even though he never taught my youngest, he's always had a special connection with Lizzy. When she was born, he and his wife Christine gave her a ladybug blanket that she still uses daily—and she is seven. Lizzy remembers very well that it was from Mr. Weber. He also always had a treat in his pocket for her whenever he saw her—a fruit snack or a mint.

Several years ago Randy came across some old, grubby life jackets. Randy doesn’t like to throw things away, so he brought them to me and threw them in the back of my truck. They were junk. And for several days, as a little game, we took turns throwing them back and forth into each others' vehicles.

Being the pitcher that I am, I eventually headed straight to the dumpster with them but gave it some thought, and I kept one. As I stared at that life preserver, I realized it symbolized everything Randy was to me as a friend and a colleague.

I decided to save one for Randy’s retirement. I'd planned to talk about him in front of the staff and present Randy with that life jacket as a token of everything he had meant to Cheney, to Cheney Middle School, and to me.

But Randy didn't want a big celebration where he'd listen to people pay tribute to him and then have to give a speech himself.

In his words he wanted to “sneak out the back door.”

And we will honor that, but I will find a way sometime soon to get that life jacket to him. His friendship, his servicea lifesaver to me and many others.


Did Coach Randy Weber give you a nickname? How did he serve as your life preserver? Or, for those who read the blog and don't know Randy, do you have a person that embodies the lifesaver concept like Randy did?


12 comments:

  1. He was truly the best teacher ever! I was blessed to have him as my grade school gym teacher and my middle school health teacher. I had a hard time in school, not to mention I wasn't the easiest kid to deal with. He was forever there, to give me a hug or just talk. Oh he was also my drivers ed teacher! By far best teacher ever!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everyone needs at least one teacher like that to serve as his advocate and support system. Thanks for commenting--whoever you are. :)

      Delete
  2. I remember my first day of kindergarten. We were heading to PE to meet Mr. Weber. I walked in and there stood what I thought to be the scariest man ever. I immediately started crying when this scary man approached me even though he was doing his very best to brighten my day. Mrs. Luthie had no choice but to escort me back to the classroom so I could calm down from my traumatic event. With the help of my teacher I was brave enough to try and attend PE again and face this giant. He knew I was terrified and after a few minutes Mr. Weber easily became someone I would look up to, respect and admire. He would never refer to me by my name , but instead referred to me as his little buddy. Almost 30 years later and it still seems like yesterday. PE became our favorite time in the day. We would play the best games and Mr. Weber made sure that everyone was having fun. He is probably one of the most amazing people I have had the privilege of knowing. He is such a special man and will always hold a special place in my heart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stephi, I can't imagine you being that scared because you turned into confident young lady by jr. high. I enjoyed the details in your Weber memory. I could picture it all. Thanks for sharing about your special connection with him!

      Delete
  3. My favorite first grade teaching memory of Randy occurred the week we learned about Ally Alligator as a memory device for the math concept of greater than and less than. Supposedly, Ally had wandered north from a southern swamp, broken into CES and entered our classroom. Given to eating only the larger of two numbers he had chomped numbers from our wall number line, our workbooks, nametags and numerous classroom items. Causing irritation, and some fear in my students, we wrote what would happen if he broke into the grocery store, bank, or hardware.
    Suddenly, a sliding sound and a crash within the closet startled students and teacher alike. One imaginative youngster shouted, “It’s Ally the Alligator. He’s in our closet!” We debated opening the door and attacking the intruder but a student’s suggestion that we should get Mr. Weber was quickly agreed upon. A runner went to summon our deliverer. Minutes later, Mr. Randy Weber in full battle mode, wielding a huge ball bat rushed in asking, “Where is he?”
    Several of us climbed up on desks, others rushed defensively into the hallway, a few brave souls approached the closet with Randy. The drama of it all! He crept up to the door, hesitated, glancing around at every anxious face, reached for the door knob, looked at us all again, heaved a sigh and yanked the door open. Much to our relief and disappointment, a pile of books and posters on the closet floor inhabited the space in which we’d imagined a greedy alligator.
    Children and teacher cheered and hugged Mr. Weber profusely, around the knees, for his courage in the face of such danger. Thank you notes were written. Mr. Weber became and remained, the Hero of the First Grade, from that day forth.
    This is a man much beloved by students and fellow staff members. It isn’t possible to spread as much love, good humor, and compassion around, as he has done for decades, without getting a little or a lot of it back on yourself. We love you, Randy.
    Meg Rice

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Meg, that sounds like just like Weber! He can perform the drama stuff with a stone face too. How he doesn't crack-up is beyond me. Thank you so much for sharing here so there's a record of what memory came to mind for you.

      Delete
  4. Coach Weber made a huge impact on my twin sister and I. We played basketball for him in high school and we didn't get to play a lot. At the end of our last game our senior year, he gave us a plaque he had, had made with our names that said "for outstanding attitude and effort." That meant more than starting every game would have. Hoping my husband and I can pass this encouragement in to our children and the high school kids we lead in our youth group. Thanks Coach! Julie still has the plaque ( I think it's my turn now :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amazing, Jan how it still impacts you today. When I coached with Weber, about half way through the season when they'd be a bit of a lull in everyone's spirits, he had the girls get a piece of paper and write down every teammate's, manager's and coach's name. At the top we wrote ____ is special because. Then the managers typed it up. Each one of us received a laminated piece of paper. Mine said Coach Hofer (my maiden name) is special because...and then I read 20+ various statements. It always cured any bad attitudes that had been festering in any one of, coaches included!

      Delete
  5. Coach Weber has been an institution in Cheney schools and taught me many life lessons as my teacher, coach, drivers ed teacher. I catch myself telling stories about my days in his class or out at track practice or during drivers ed or.... Yes, I guess there are plenty of Weber memories. I can just hope that I can pass a piece of it all on to my students. Melodie made a comment about Coach Weber putting on a performance like that with a stone face. I can definitely see that, but I can also picture the big grin cracking that stone face in amusement. Hard to imagine Cheney schools without him around.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Phil! After his little act, he would crack. Then he'd rub a shoulder or pat a back or do a little side hug maneuver. One of a kind.

      Delete
  6. With us Bales' all having a chance to have him in middle school and some of us earlier, it was a great experience. Will always remember him having issue keeping track of who was in his class and calling us by our siblings name. =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm imagining he had to come up with nicknames then for you guys. Thanks for commenting, Laura.

      Delete