Last year, out of the blue, my beloved teacher and high school choir director, Glenn Patton, called to talk with me after I mentioned (on social media) his significance in my life. He was 94, and looking back with gratitude on a life well lived.
We talked for almost an hour that day, me sitting at my desk on campus and he in his retirement home, educator to educator. He wondered, what was it like working with kids during the pandemic? Probably, he did not know the impact of that conversation on me. Probably, he was just carrying out his life’s work as he had always done. Probably, he was just being the teacher he had always been.
Then, last week I dreamt about choir and awakened with memories swirling of our tour in Canada. I have a sweet little carved bird made of soapstone — which sat on the mantle in my folk’s house for decades and now sits on mine — a gift from my host family on that trip. So I sent an email, asking to connect for another conversation about teaching and music and life.
I hadn’t received a reply, which I thought curious, and today I read that my beloved teacher had died. He was the one who inspired me to become a teacher and modeled how to do it. It feels like a big loss to me and the whole world. A Mr Holland sort of loss. A Mr Patton sort of loss.
The formative experiences of connection and community which the great teacher, Glenn Patton, so generously bestowed upon his students, have informed my teaching, my relationships and my life. I wish I had told him that when he was still in a body. I had intended to, though, I suspect he knew.
As he taught us to sing the Irish Blessing: May the road rise up to meet you, Mr. Patton, and May the wind be always at your back. May God hold you ever in the palm of his hand. And give you peace.