A Tribute to an Educator

Teaching is not just a profession; it is a vocation. By extension, being an educator is not just a profession. It is indeed a vocation.

A profession is more like a suit that you can put on and take off. You can change it any time like many people do. They are in business one time and, all of a sudden, they go to another field, like the military or engineering, or vice versa. A vocation is more of a calling, with a caller and a called. The called one receiving a life-long task that becomes a part of his or her identity from the one who calls. Being an educator is a calling. Once an educator, always an educator.

Yesterday, it was announced to us that the Brightwood community has lost an educator.

I have known Ms. Fox for more than 10 years here at Brightwood, the school I have worked for in as many years. And I believe I can say with total conviction that she is the epitome of what I know an educator should be: passionate in her work, strong in her convictions, generous with her time and efforts in everything that concerns Brightwood, and always a model in professionalism and community building. Brightwood will never be the same without her in the role of the leader of this community.

As each one of us in the community try to digest the implications of this news of her loss at the helm of this school, I’m sure every one will have both the good things and the not so good things to remember of Ms. Fox. But I’m sure that I can fairly say that the good things will far outweigh the not so good ones. And in the final reckoning, everyone will be saddened by such a sudden turn of events. But let us not get lost in the sadness and the gloom, lest we lose track of appreciating what Ms. Fox has meant to this community.

Of the more than 10 years that I have worked with Ms. Fox at Brightwood, I have seen her vision and passion of elevating the level of education of ALL and EVERY student under her care, absolutely NO exception. This passion is sometimes at a fault and truly frustrates some people who worked with her because it can be seen as a weakness, especially when it deals with some difficult cases of individual students. I’m sure everyone has a lot of things to say about this issue, but the point is, she certainly would never think of having “any child left behind…”

Another admirable trait Ms. Fox has is how she deals with the staff. I have never heard her raise her voice in anger which may be deemed a lack of professionalism or just letting off steam due to anger or frustration. She is totally professional and respectful in dealing with every staff in the school. She might raise her voice to be heard over the din of noise in the gymnasium or a school assembly, but I have absolutely not heard her do it when talking with an individual person (a student, a teacher, a worker, a parent…) never, ever.

In the area of decision-making, Ms. Fox is as democratic as needed when there is a need to get the buy in of key people who work with her; but can also make the ultimate choice of a lonely leader at the top when there is no consensus reached and something needs to be done. “It is what it is…”, and she has to follow the directives of people above her. This is such a delicate balance of following directives from above and having to make people follow it even when the directives do not make a lot of sense in our particular, local situation. Ms. Fox was a consummate expert in steering the ship around dangerous mines and shallow waters, and we never had problems in this area.

There are still so many things I could say about the leadership of Ms. Fox. And so many things I can say about what I should be thankful to her in my personal and professional life in Brightwood. But I can summarize it this way: as long as I have made it apparent to her that my main goal in life is to educate every child that is placed under my care, she has given me all the support that I needed. In other word, any person who shares with her that passion to educate children, you can count on her unconditional support as the leader.

But the most admirable segment of her story as our community leader here is her concern for every individual student, no matter how problematic the behavior of this student is. She gives the excuse sometimes of her training as a guidance counselor, that makes her look at the students along that perspective. But I see more than that excuse, and I see an educator. An educator who is not only passionately in love with each and every child placed in her care, but most of all because it is her essence and identity. It is simply her being an educator.

I’m not here to question the wisdom of the decision taken by our district leaders. That is not my purpose. At the level I’m at, I don’t think we would ever be privy to those reasons. And we won’t question the bird’s eye view of people above. But I believe that credit should be given where credit is due. And those years of Ms. Fox’s service of leadership in this community is priceless. I believe she deserves every thankful heart’s tribute to her and to what she has done for this school.

So, in summary, we may not be able to change the situation of losing her. But we should certainly not fail to acknowledge and pay tribute to what she has done for this community. The few paragraphs that I have written here may not be able to summarize everything she has done, not even close. They may not even capture the gratitude I feel from my own perspective. But together, as one community, any tribute and gratitude is a fitting start to give credit to her life of service to this community. Excelsior, Ms. Fox. You still have a lot to share. Whatever the future has in store for you, I’m sure you will continue to respond to that calling of being an educator in any field you will plant your tree, and it will flourish and bear fruit from your being an educator through and through.

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