An Inspiring Orator


When I met Ellen at a farmers market, she described herself as eighty-five years young. She was using her motorized scooter because of some health issues, but she was determined to enjoy the market. She talked about Mr. Dillon, the high school speech teacher who made a lasting impact on her life. I was surprised at how much she remembered about his class after so many years.

Mr. Dillon was well known in our town, a gifted orator and long time speech teacher. When he was diagnosed with throat cancer, he promised students he would return after treatment. He eventually returned with a tracheostomy that enabled him to breathe. The cancer and surgeries caused extensive damage to his airway. At first, the students were a little uneasy. It was difficult to focus on what he was saying as he covered his neck with one hand and held the microphone with the other. He struggled to get the words out. But after a while, we all got used to it. He was just Mr. Dillon again, the teacher who taught us to communicate with precision and poise.

I have experienced many challenges over the sixty-eight years since I was in Mr. Dillon’s speech class. When I start to feel sorry for myself, I remember the way Mr. Dillon showed up every day, fully committed to teaching. He has been my model of perseverance and strength. He is proof that it is possible to keep moving forward, even when obstacles get in the way. I appreciate how much he taught me, about giving a speech and about living a purposeful life.

Ellen’s story about Mr. Dillon reminded me that the most important lessons often have little to do with the subjects we teach. Our teacher legacies are not just based on how we teach; our teacher legacies are built on how we live. Who modeled perseverance and strength for you? Please share in the comments below.

Wishing you an endless supply of chalk and chances-


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