However, Kathleen's words, "What did you teach?" ring true for me in every interaction I try to have today. What meaning does your life as a teacher, as a friend, as a person have? How will this person you just interacted with remember you and feel better, because they spent these moments with you?
People call her mentor. Teacher. Friend. She was all of these, but unless you knew her, at least from a distance, you don't really know that these words on their own don't really capture who she was. She was just our "Kathleen." Larger than life, she could laugh and carry you along with it. She taught us, she pushed us, she made us laugh, she upset us, her observations made us nervous, but we always knew we'd learn so much! We wanted to do our best, because she was there, holding us to high standards we didn't believe we could reach, but she believed we could.
She leaves behind a legacy of having helped millions of kids find meaning in their lives through reading. She leaves behind a legacy of hundreds of thousands of teachers who are more empowered to make the world a better place for kids because of all she's taught them. We can each strive to do just a shadow of that. If we make that our aim, we answer Kathleen's question, "What did you teach?" so much more than naming a teaching point in a conference...it means we leave behind a legacy. Maybe like Kathleen's!
So who will believe in us now? I didn't work directly with her these last years, but her belief is still in me. Thank you for being our Kathleen!
FOR MORE REMEMBRANCES, GO TO http://readingandwritingproject.org/about/kathleen-tolan