For Elin

Acclaimed American poet Maya Angelou states:

“One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”

Elin epitomizes courage … both professionally and personally.

Professionally, Elin was my mentor … she guided me, gave me advice and supported my career. Personally, Elin was my friend. This sounds so insignificant.

When Joe called me the other morning and told me that Elin wanted me to talk today I told him that I was extremely honored. The fact is I was extremely afraid and a little bit angry at Elin. Everyone here has memories and experiences with Elin. Nothing will surprise you or enlighten you as to the person Elin is. I asked both my wife, Kathleen and other close friends … what do I say? The response: What would Elin want you to say? I’ve been searching for the answer. Why did she ask me to speak? Did she want me to talk about her legacy? What was her impact on others?

Last night I was watching a promotional video that we made for Heritage High School. I watched as Elin guided me and the first teachers of Heritage through the new site as construction crews were busily creating a dream. The song that we used for this video was “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” I realized how much that song represents Elin to me.

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high,
there’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a lullaby.

The land that Elin envisions and lives in is one where anything is possible. I was fortunate to spend a couple of hours with her a few weeks ago in the hospital. During my visit Elin asked if I would massage her feet. I was honored to do so but I did think to myself, “Wow … I don’t even do this for my wife!”. She then asked me to help her to the couch so we could read her family book that her children put to together for her. That is the foundation that everything else in her life is built upon. I helped her back to bed and she asked me to talk about her work at the Liberty Union High School District and what effect it had on people’s lives. We began to calculate the number of students and staff who were directly impacted through her work as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. We began to laugh … the twinkle in her eyes was so proud when she realized it was immeasurable. Heritage over ten years: 20,000 students … district-wide during her decade of service: over 100,000 students.

Somewhere over the rainbow, the sky is blue.
When dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.

My wife always says that Elin is your biggest fan. The fact is, everyone is Elin’s biggest fan. Elin empowers people. Elin challenges you to be better than you think you are. She stretches you … and makes you actually believe that you can do anything if it’s in the best interest of kids.

A very good friend of mine, a social studies teacher, (and if you know social studies teachers … they can be quite rebellious) told me that she was working on common assessments for her content. When asked by her collegues why the heck she was working on this … she simply replied … because Elin asked me too. All Elin had to do was ask.

When I defended my dissertation, Joe told me that he and Elin were going to attend. Joe was already there when I arrived … Elin walked in shortly after after going through her treatment. There was nothing that would stop them from sharing my special moment regardless of what was happening in their lives.

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, Nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when they discover that someone else believes in them and is willing to trust them.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I cannot imagine a more precious gift that one human being can give to another than to believe in them and trust them. This encourages and motivates them to be the best person they can be.

Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly.
If birds can fly over the rainbow, why tell me why can’t I.

She has always lived over the rainbow. Life has limitless possibilities for her. Elin is the consummate optimist. Her passion for kids, her passion for adults to do the right thing … she demands that you become more. She demands that of me … she makes me a better educator … she makes me a better man.

It is an impossibility for me to ever talk about Elin in the past tense. I see her face, I hear her laugh, and I can hear tell me that …

Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me. Where troubles melt like lemon drops, way above the chimney tops, that’s where you’ll find me.

I’ll never watch “The Wizard of Oz” the same way again.
I want to thank Joe and his family for sharing Elin with us.
Thank you, Elin.