Core scripture: “Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14)
Message: I got the phone call about a week ago from his devoted wife, Sheri. A wonderful friend of mine, one of my greatest teaching mentors, went to be with the Lord. My heart is full of this man’s love. How could it not be as much as he poured into me over the past 15 years? After celebrating his life on Sunday, I will attempt to write about Curt Robertson’s legacy. It is the absolute least I can do to honor him.
My words will never do his name the full justice it deserves. I met Curt way back in 2003. It was my first year of teaching, and I was about to be thrown to the wolves. You just don’t let a first year teacher tackle a 9th grade Pre-AP English course on his own. Curt knew that. He found me, chatted me up for three and a half hours, and donated half of his filing cabinet of lessons to my classroom. Had it not been for this man, I would have floundered aimlessly.
I felt like I was part of a prestigious fraternity in knowing Curt. He invited me every day to have lunch with him and two other friends, Milan Snozek and Matt Kunstman. Those guys were my life. They believed in me when nobody else would. As my first year culminated in near disaster, Mr. Rob kept my spirit alive. I left that 9th Grade Pre-AP English job to shift my talents to teaching 7th Grade Language Arts, a much better fit. Curt and I still kept in touch.
Years passed. It was Summer Conference of 2013. I saw Curt’s name as a presenter on the Ohana Classroom Management strategy. Spending an hour and a half with him that Friday morning revolutionized my classroom. Ohana is the Hawaiian word for family or community. That is the way Curt treated the people in his life. Like family. That closeness and camaraderie began to spill into my classroom that fall. Today, I wouldn’t teach any other way.
I loved Ohana so much that I felt called to reach out to Curt the following year. I wanted to present that same lesson alongside him, but it never happened. Unbeknownst to me, Curt had a stroke that left him hospitalized. Doctors told him he would never walk again, but the big guy fought through it to prove them wrong. In a wheelchair at home, Curt clung to the life he had left in him. But still, it was never the same. He couldn’t pour into others the way he had before.
I visited him whenever I could. Though his body was failing, his mind was sharp. The man could recount every student, every story from his life. I marveled at his memories and laughed with him about old students we had shared that one year we taught together. I wanted to give the gift of Ohana to other teachers. The same precious gift he had given me. So together we worked on a brand new Ohana Classroom Management presentation, combining our ideas. Fittingly, my presentation took place in the same room that he taught me in.
It was remarkable. To see a standing room only classroom full of teachers soaking in Curt’s brilliance brought tears to my eyes. The amazing thing is to think of how many of those teachers are now using Ohana in their classrooms. His legacy spread even more as I revamped the presentation and shared Ohana again the following year at Summer Conference. Today, I want to give that same gift to you. The Cliff’s Notes version at least. The Curt Robertson version might use up all the space on this blog.
- Student relationships are vital to academic success. Connect with kids before you ever teach content. Kids will not work for teachers that fail to care for them.
- Keep your expectations high. Encourage your students to be the best they can be. They will rise to those levels of expectations if you find ways to inspire.
- Smile. I never saw Curt without a smile on his face. He loved teaching and coaching, and he always did it with a positive attitude. Never be afraid to laugh.
- Find beauty in all kids. It is there. Once you find it, praise that student in their strengths.
- Treat kids not as kids but as young adults. Connect with them. Invite them to have lunch in your classroom to invest in their interests and promote community.
- Never ever embarrass a student. Be humble if that moment ever happens by accident. It is okay for a teacher to model humility and forgiveness.
- Be a counselor. Listen to your students’ problems. Let them know you are praying for them and their well-being. Your heart should spill out in kindness to all.
- Greet students at the door! Promote happiness and positivity. Say their names as much as possible to remind them that each kid is worth it.
- Share lessons with needy colleagues. Share life lessons and snacks with students. Share Christ through your actions. Curt was never shy to share.
- Teach character. Realize that you are a respected mentor to all. Never miss an opportunity to teach kids what honesty, patience, endurance, and kindness are all about. Model these attributes through your actions.
When I look at the legacy Curt Robertson left behind, I smile. So many students he taught. Colleagues he inspired. Players he coached. Family he loved on. They were all full of his heartfelt love for humanity. Curt never missed an opportunity to pray before his theater productions. He spoke boldly about Jesus to all the hospital employees who took care of him after his stroke. And now, after living every moment of his life to the fullest, he gets to rest in eternity with our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.
Till we see each other again one day, my good friend. May your legacy live on forever.
Challenge: Take to heart the traits of the Ohana Classroom above. Which ideas would work in your classroom? Use second quarter as a springboard to implement strategies that fit your students’ needs.
Prayer: Lord, I pray the spirit of Curt Robertson would be alive in classrooms all across the world. May we continually make our students feel special the way he did, allowing them to flourish, using Your gifts. Amen.