Last weekend, my friend Jeff Nardone passed away. He was the school newspaper adviser. While he was out fighting the good fight, I worked with another great teacher to make sure the paper lived up to the award winning expectations he left. To honor him, we have worked day and night to create a 16-page tribute edition and have asked for written thoughts from his friends, colleagues and former students. We have also put together a story on our website and collected all of the tributes and created a special post for them. The Wordle above was created from all of the tributes we have received. You can see all of them on our web edition here. You can also read some nice pieces in The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press on Jeff. Our state organization MIPA (Michigan Interscholastic Press Association) created a scholarship in Jeff's name to help students attend their summer camp that Jeff loved being part of over the years.
As part of putting together a special edition, I had to read every single one of these tributes from people that were impacted by Jeff over the course of 20 years at Grosse Pointe South High School, East Detroit High School, MIPA and really anyone that knew him. The thing that struck me most is that very few were about his abilities as a teacher. Not a single person wrote about the amazing multiple choice tests he created or his ability to match his curriculum to the state standards. The letters were about a man that was passionate about what he did and how much he clearly loved his students. These letters focused on a the connections he made with people every day and how warm to everyone around him. After reading the letters, a person might not even know that he was a classroom teacher. The truth is that he was much more than that. He was a mentor, a leader, an advocate, a father, a son, a dad, a jokester, and most importantly, to me, a friend.
There will never be enough space in all of the internet to express my grief and share the amazing stories that made Jeff the man I admired and aspired to be. If I only make a fraction of an impact on my students, friends and colleagues, I will have done a great job. I will strive every day to be the man he knew I could be longer before I knew it myself. I will never be able to thank him enough.
From my tear stained keyboard, I write goodbye to a man that gave me the confidence to be me every day. For that, I'm forever in Jeff's debt.
Miss you buddy.