When I was a junior in high school Mrs. Leis told our third period College-Prep English Class that who we are and who we become in this world is a result of the people around us. Of all the lessons and memories I have from high school and growing up in my small town, by far this has meant more to me and has guided me to become who I think God intended me to be more than anything else. I have been so blessed over the years to have lived the travels and experiences life has provided, and at every stop, I’ve thought about Mrs. Leis, standing in front of our class talking about the experience of losing her husband in a tragic plane crash and that no matter how long people are in your life, whether it be a moment, an hour, an evening or a lifetime; they leave a mark on you and you are different because you met them. So with that advice, perhaps we listen closer, care more and try harder because every day as Mrs. Leis reminded us, is as an opportunity to be significant to someone else.
I hold a special place and respect for the two football coaches who led the teams I played on and their staffs while at Ottawa-Glandorf High School, but it was in Mrs. Leis’s English class that I learned to express myself and found an identity. It was the encouragement and inspiration from Mrs. Leis to live life to its fullest and not look back that has me sitting in Chicago after traveling the country and literally the world as a professional athlete writing a blog post. I certainly didn’t think professional sports were in my future at that time, but in the back of my mind I thought that I could be a writer someday. Even if being a writer today means I’m blogging or getting a call from a friend to help find the right words for a resume or editing a letter, the fact of the matter is that no matter where I go or who I meet, Mrs. Leis instilled in me in me that I can be someone who leaves a mark on others. So in some self-indulging way, I think I need to write about it because someone may also read this post and be reminded of or moved to ask me about how amazing of an English teacher she was and continues to be.