Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Joe Howard calls it "TIM-ness". Its an acronym he came up with for our teacher friend, Tim Shannon, who died a year ago.

The acronym stands for qualities Tim embodied - Teach, Inspire, Mentor.

When I went by Fremont High School today on my way to work, there was a memorial in Tim's honor on the one year anniversary of his death. In front of the auditorium, a table had been set up with some photos of Tim and a long sheet of paper for students (or anyone else) to write on. Next to the table was Tim's old oak chair that he'd had for 25 years, a "ghost light", and an old pair of Tim's very paint splattered sneakers. I suspect Tim's office-mate and long time friend Joe Howard of setting the scene.

When I passed by the table shortly before lunch and I headed over the to Music Building to see Joe, the paper was blank. When I returned thirty minutes later, many students had scribbled messages to Tim, telling him that they missed him and that he would never be forgotten. But what caught my eye was the fact that many of messages spoke of "TIM"ness -- that Tim had taught them about life, that he had inspired them to follow their dreams, that he had been a mentor to them in addition to being their drama teacher.

I added my own scribbled message to the sheet. ("Tim, you promised you would not retire before you turned 55. So not fair!")

On my way back home from work tonight, I decided to swing by the high school one last time. The students had all gone home. The only sounds were of a basketball game in the gym and the splash of adults doing laps in the pool. Some lights were on in the administration building. I walked around campus in the twilight and tried a back door. It opened, so I walked in. The table was still set up in the hallway.

A janitor walked by and pointed to the table, to the photos. "Tim" he said as he pointed to the photos. I asked him "Did you know him?" "Oh, yes" replied the janitor. "Everyone knew Tim".

And then I remembered. I used to come down to the high school at lunch time, often to sit in Tim's office to breathe in the teenage banter that went on around me unabated, as if I was just another high school student. But occasionally, Tim had errands to do and dragged me around campus with him. One time, we actually had lunch in the staff lounge. We ate lunch at a table, not with other teachers, but with the school janitors, all of whom Tim knew. This was a lesson for me, a lesson in humility. Tim didn't think he was a better person than the janitors just because he was a teacher. They considered him a friend.

If I am not mistaken, there is an "H" in Timothy.

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