Wednesday, November 3, 2010

today is november 3rd, 2010. mr. president?

About an hour or so ago, I found out that my 11th grade AP US History teacher died in a car accident. This is the same teacher that taught Amber, Amber's sister, both of my siblings, and literally hundreds of Bruins. She is one of a handful of teachers that inspired me to be a teacher. So as I sit here remembering Mrs. Bayrd, I thought I would share what affected me most from being in her class, and how that translates to where I am now.

Mrs. Bayrd was one of those teachers that never let you just learn about the normal stuff. She always exposed us to things that were important, but not clich├ęd. Her famous "meat packing plant" unit is the stuff that you dream about as a history teacher: rapt attention from your students as you weave an elaborate story that combines personal experience, historical fact, literary references, and just a dash of macabre humor. I know that my lecture style today has a Mrs. Bayrd side (the rest is equal parts Ms. Simpson and Mr. Faircloth...3rd & 7th grade respectively). I straight up stole the "open festering puss-filled wound" line (a more than accurate description of the sectional conflict that led to the Civil War). I absorbed knowledge in her class, but I also absorbed her spirit for teaching.

At the time, I was just entertained. I honestly don't think I was ready for AP...a lot of it went right over my head. I didn't read like I should have, and I did okay on the AP test. But I know my love for American history was born right there in that classroom to the sound of "Mr. President?" I could listen to her teach for the whole long period on flex Wednesday...and even enjoy it. And that's half the battle right there, isn't it? As a teacher, getting and keeping the students' attention is how you spend 60% of your energy. She won that battle the moment she stepped up to the projector. Every. Day.

But the most important thing that I remember about Mrs. Bayrd was that she wanted us to matter. A lot of teachers try and pull the "Dead Poet's Society" inspirational move...but she never needed to. I always knew that she expected something more of us. Not just because we were in AP, but because we were individuals with gifts. A year or so ago, I went to a session on teaching local history in Franklin, TN and ran into her. It was the first time I had seen her as a colleague. And I'm not gonna lie...I was excited to show off the fact that I was a teacher. I wanted her to be proud of me. She didn't recognize me at first (more facial hair, less acne) but she was excited to hear that I was teaching and she looked proud of me...which is the best complement that a student can ever have. I was doing something that mattered.

Mrs. Bayrd died in a car accident while she was on a road trip through Greece. Amber made the comment that she must have been having the time of her life. I know that she was. It is sad that we won't be able to be at home for any vigils or memorial services, but she would be proud of us for being here. It was a Guam/John conundrum coming here...(but for us more like Saudi/friends & family) and I know that she would approve of our choice to go on an adventure. We're living our lives to the absolute fullest, and she was the champion of that.

Mrs. Bayrd meant so much to so many students that it would be foolish of me to try and cover every "Bayrdism" or say exactly what she means to her students. I can't really even say all of the ways that she has affected me.

All I can really say is thanks.

Mrs. Bayrd. I'm gonna miss you.

Vicariously Yours,


  1. Nice tribute, sir. I wish more teachers could be like the woman you've described.

  2. well said, my son-in-law! I'm proud of you, too.

  3. She was absolutely one of the finest teachers that will ever teach. Her class was hard, but I loved it and I feel like everyone wanted to make her proud.

  4. I don't think we ever met, but I'm a 2004 BHS grad and I saw the link to your blog on the channel 4 news article online. Thanks for writing this beautiful tribute to one of BHS's finest. Best of luck to you in Saudi Arabia.

  5. Tyler- probably haven't seen you since high school...but great post. She was pretty amazing wasn't she? Glad to "run into you" online.
    Hope life is treating you well...