Sometimes we forget too easily how influential we can be when it comes to guiding others on their career path.
Years ago in my former life as a teacher (and I guess I still am to some extent through reporting), I taught a journalism and yearbook class where I required my students to help sell the annual by creating a marketing project. They could use video, posters or a slide show to help promote the book. Posters were placed around campus while video and slideshows were shown during lunch in the cafeteria and also aired on classroom TVs.
Our efforts paid off — and I say our efforts because any teacher who’s ever handled yearbook knows just how much work is also required of the advisor. Not only did we sell every annual it also opened my eyes to my students’ hidden talents.
One student in particular proved especially surprising. Henry was on track to medical school and no one doubted that he would make it. He had consistently been a top student with an impressive attitude and sense of humor to match.
His technical aptitude was also exceptional. He was not only a top performer at science fairs, but he had also nailed our newly enacted history fair with a 3D rendering of the first atom bomb, which attracted attention at the state and then national level. There was just no stopping this kid.
I was thrilled to have Henry in my journalism and yearbook class where we churned out campus news and compiled the annual with a boatload of photos. But Henry was a little uneasy about doing the marketing project. He had never done anything like that and wasn’t quite sure how to get his head around it. After talking with him and more thoroughly going over the options, he chose video and hit the ground running.
Back then students had pretty poor video capability on their phones so I let them check out the school’s video camera. An editing program came with the camera but it wasn’t too long before Henry found one online that he preferred. He guided others — including me — on how to use it.
In the morning I’d made my rounds and see how projects were coming along. It was pretty clear that Henry had been bitten hard by the video bug. When he finished his roughly one-minute long clip, it was clear to me and the rest of the class that Henry was doing next level stuff. Administrators and other teachers made it a point to tell me how much they liked his work.
Having studied writing and film at both Florida State and the University of Southern California, I told Henry that he had a real talent for video production and informed him about both schools and their storied film departments. He was definitely interested.
Fast-forward a few years later and I ran into Henry while picking up my daughter at dance class. Turns out he was there to give his sister a ride. We got to talking. He was now a junior in high school at this point and naturally had been thinking about college. His future major? Film. I was floored, delighted and hopeful that his parents wouldn’t run me down in the parking lot.
To this day, Henry’s story serves a big reminder to me of just how influential teachers, parents and bosses can be when it comes to discovering and then nurturing hidden talents.
My dad, stepdad and brothers got me interested in cars long before I was old enough to drive. A diligent shop teacher in high school taught me how to rebuild a small engine, which took first place at the Del Mar Fair in Southern California. English and journalism teachers along with my parents kept on encouraging me in my writing. Now I can daily combine my interest in vehicles with writing. Not bad! And it all goes back to key folks who took the time to offer some encouraging words and guide me along.