The local high school alumni softball tournament was more than an occasion for watching my own family play.  I  enjoyed some pleasing reunions with young men and women whom I taught across the years.  So this is a good time to revisit that occasional topic this blog treats, the “humble rewards of the profession.”

None of the weekend reunions was happier than finding Colette and Tonya, members of the first English class I ever taught at Eunice Junior High in 1986-87, sitting with one another watching Colette’s Dad play against my wife’s team.  The girls were enjoying their own reunion, since their lives and careers have led them on divergent paths since Eunice days, both leading to success with adorable kids and professional careers.

Why are Colette and Tonya so striking in the annals of my career?  I believe it’s because they’re not just “former students.”  I explained it to them like this Saturday afternoon: After teaching 21+ years, if I had to make a list of all time Top Ten students of David Pulling from all of those classes, Tonya and Colette would be tied for first.  Sure, I would spend a long time searching my memory and debating back and forth to  complete the list with the next eight in the Top Ten list, because the competition would be fierce.  I’ve taught some incredibly sharp students over the years who have risen to notable heights of academic and professional success.  But without hesitation or deliberation, those two names from year one of teaching, Colette and Tonya, would go right at the top, side by side.

How exceptional can it be that my top two students of all time came from fourth hour English in the first year of my career?  That was a year-long indoctrination to the craft wherein an idealistic but naive novitiate surely learned a lot more from his charges than he imparted to them.

And from that amazing year when I learned so much because I knew so little (about teaching),  I’m at least a little astonished that, after teaching rising grade levels over the next twenty years all the way up to college freshmen and sophomores, no former student’s intellect surpasses the intellect of those two little eighth grade girls.  Yep, that’s pretty amazing.

Predictably, the ladies have done well since Eunice Junior High.  Tonya has grown up to be a college math teacher and Colette a physical therapist.  Best of all, though, as adults, they’re the same bright, striking, engaging characters I remember from Eunice Junior High.  They weren’t just smart, you see–They were great kids!

And they still are!