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Matt Beem
President, Kinetic Companies, Inc.

Teachers help mold our lives

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<SATURDAY, B 2008Saturday, August 9, 2008

It’s hard to believe summer’s coming to an end. Wasn’t it just last week that the kids bounded home from school giddy over their sweet slice of freedom?

So it is with many things long-awaited. They go as quickly as they come.

Yet this school year marks a milestone. Our youngest child starts kindergarten.

I remember the day he was born. Maggie, who denies it now, was initially mad at Kate and me: She wanted a little sister and was certain we’d sabotaged her. Meanwhile, Joe couldn’t figure out why we’d named the baby Tom; he preferred Joe 2.

There have been days when we’ve longed for the quiet of our pre-kid-home. Though tougher to remember with each passing year, we still recall evenings with sit-coms and weekends with the newspaper.

They’re long gone now, and time has flown. Soon, all the kids will be in school.

I’ve replayed my K-12 memories as the reality has dawned on me. They assure me the best is yet to come.

I remember my grade school principal, Henri Goettel. Her cool, steady hand guided my early years at Proctor School. I always sensed her confidence and strove to meet her high expectations.

Molly Hankins, who stands out among my junior high school teachers, opened my eyes to the power of the past. Under her tutelage, I spent a dozen hours interviewing my grandpa, Joe Beem, to complete an oral history assignment. Those 12 hours taught me invaluable lessons about the depth of my grandpa’s character and the importance of listening to and learning from those who’ve walked before me.

My high school years were filled with memorable musical experiences, most of which were made possible by then-William Chrisman High School Vocal Music Director Mark Lee. From demanding roles in “Guys and Dolls,” “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific” to experiences in the concert and chamber choirs, Mark’s confidence in me strengthened my belief in myself. He opened up the opportunity to sing in the University of Missouri Singers and provided a platform to develop the presentation skills essential to my vocation.    

Other teachers molded me, too. Millicent Daugherty, my voice teacher, taught me poise and presence. Bob Tyson, my junior high school gym teacher, taught me to compete with compassion. Jerry Wiley, my ninth grade geometry teacher, opened my eyes to the beauty of precision. And Carl MacDonald, my high school student council adviser, taught me to confront leadership challenges with peaceful persistence.

We already know who Tom’s kindergarten teacher will be. A frequent Bryant School visitor, Tom’s always sure to say hello to Sarah Stegeman when he sees her in the hall.

Joe and Maggie were in Sarah’s kindergarten class, too. She was the calm, consistent influence that helped them make the important transition into elementary school.

Joe’s now in middle school, and Tom’s first year will be Maggie’s last at Bryant. Their stacks of memories are already piling up.

If they look back on them someday like I have in recent weeks, I suspect they’ll point to a whole host of teachers who imprinted and improved their lives. That’s the reality of education: It’s a process whose value becomes clearer and more relevant as time marches on.

These days, Kate and I are counseling Tom on several important pre-kindergarten decisions: Should he get his summer crew cut freshened up before school starts? Which backpack should he choose?

Though they’re all-consuming to him, we know better. The best is yet to come.

Matt Beem is president of Kinetic Companies, an international fundraising consulting firm. He lives in Independence.

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