The following words were spoken to the school at the assembly on May 5, 2014, as Ken Beland bid a fond farewell to the school which has been his teaching home for the past five years. He will be greatly missed.
Good Morning John Bapst!!!!!
As I prepare to move on to a new chapter in my life, I would like to share a few thoughts with you. I will draw upon my own experience. I hope these thoughts are useful to you.
Five years ago, I was anxiously interviewing for a vacant Biology teacher position at John Bapst. I had been retired for four years from my previous career as a fishery scientist.
I hesitate calling those years…. retirement. I had taken on a new role in my family…… SOCCER MOM………well …. almost soccer mom…….
No way was I trading my pickup truck for a mini-van or an SUV. Other than that, soccer mom pretty well described my routine. Soccer mom sounds so simple, but it’s incredibly hard work!!
In my earlier life, I had many opportunities to challenge myself in ways that are uniquely my own. I was the first in my extended family to go directly from high school to college, and spent four years at Colby. I was the first to go on to graduate school. I then had a 26-year career as a fishery scientist, and I traveled to many wild and scenic places to study fish in their native habitats.
I was neither very anxious nor nervous about college or grad school. The possibility of failure in academics never occurred to me. I just continued with what I had been doing since age 5; go to school, do my homework and get good grades.
I missed the boat on sports and music during my childhood. …
…. but I still found a few things that excited me.
I love to go fly fishing!!… At the age of 20, I took a year off from college to work, so that I could afford a summer traveling to the island of Newfoundland and fishing for Atlantic salmon. My home and belongings consisted of what I could stuff into saddle-bags on my 10-speed road bike. I left Islesboro, Maine alone and travelled more than 1,200 miles by bicycle, about 800 miles on ships, and hundreds of miles by bus or hitching rides in trucks (never far away from that yellow bike). Part of that trip involved riding on the back seat of a Harley-Davidson with my bike on my shoulders.
Taking a year off from college to go fishing frightened my parents much more than me. I had just posted my highest GPA to date, and I knew that this break would last exactly one year, and that I would finish college and go on to graduate school.
About 35 years ago, with help from my dad and brother, I restored and sailed a 26-foot wooden sailboat that was built between 1910-1915. I grew up away from the coast and had never sailed before the age of 20, but from my dad I inherited the confidence to take anything apart and figure out how to fix it or make it better. The boat career ended prematurely; my wife and I started a family.
I had full confidence that I would succeed at adventures like taking a bike trip, or dismantling and rebuilding old wooden sailboats.
I share this history with you to make a point about your own lives. You can attain success in many ways; you don’t have to be Valedictorian, Team Captain, or All-state in Music or Drama to find success and satisfaction in your life.
Take chances, those adventures and accomplishments will stay with you for a lifetime. Later in life, those experiences will matter more to you than having the perfect wardrobe, the perfect car, the coolest phone, or later in your life…..the perfect house.
….Onward to more recent history…..
I was almost 55 and my younger son was finishing high school. My family no longer needed a soccer mom. I had no clue about my next career move. I was too young to stop working.
Returning to fisheries did not appeal to me; I was ready for something different. I was anxious and unsure about what that something different would be. Those were new feelings for me.
My wife Judy kept making career suggestions, and I …. kept finding reasons why they wouldn’t work. One of those suggestions was a second career as a teacher. My first reaction was… Are you nuts?? All I got was… the look!!
Back to my career….
I did some research, and I learned that becoming certified as a teacher seemed feasible. …but…Would I be able to find a teaching job in the Bangor area? And… What if someone actually hired me as a teacher?….. Now that was a scary thought!
My wife didn’t give up about the teacher thing, so I found a part-time position teaching Biology at the Community College. Surprise!!… I liked it!
Now … Back to that vacancy at John Bapst…
Short version of the story… Mr. McKay and Mr. Armistead took a chance and offered me a job.
I was beginning a new career, and I had a new professional identity….. I was now a TEACHER
I applied myself to learning the teacher’s craft. I pestered Mr. Packard and Mr. Burgess with endless questions.
I could now engage in conversation at a dinner party with my wife’s medical colleagues without worrying whether that man across the table was thinking, …
why is that loser unemployed and doing the soccer mom thing?
On the surface, this job is a simple business transaction. I teach 5 classes a day, and Bapst gave me a paycheck and health insurance.
I never anticipated the positive feelings I would have at the end of each day, working with Bapst students. … OK…. not every day, but most days. Bapst is a warm & wonderful community of people working toward a common purpose
When I say education, I’m speaking about much more than English, Math and History, or your GPA.
Here are some of the other things you might have learned at Bapst:
…Acceptance for students who are different from you
Quiet kids and Artsy types can be very cool and interesting people!
…Computer nerds will someday rule the world!
…Screwing up… and visiting Mrs. Wood…it’s not fatal!!
…Teachers actually like you, even if they give you bad grades.
…How to acquire knowledge from the great and mighty Google
Even as a teacher, I have been re-learning many of these same lessons, as I helped guide your academic journeys.
I am grateful for those lessons. Perhaps the greatest lesson I have re-learned is humility.
Webster defines humility as the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : This does not mean you lack self-confidence, it just means that you stay honest with yourself. You may have special gifts, but those gifts don’t make you better than the person sitting next to you.
A few weeks ago, Mr Armistead asked faculty to describe Bapst in one word. I chose community, because I think that may be the most important subject you learn at this school.
Your Academics are important to your success, but becoming an engaged member of your community is every bit as important as your grades. It helps to shape your future success in life. As individuals we may be capable of many fine accomplishments, but as part of a community of people that cares about its members, we develop confidence, support systems, and the many intangibles that help us embrace life and take those chances that will truly enrich our lives.
My advice to you is two-fold:
First: engage in your community, here and outside of school. Find ways to share your gifts with others. That community will have your back if you ever need it.
Second: take chances in your life.
You never know what passion or talent you may discover, what career paths may open, or what lasting relationships you will develop along the way.
I am proud to say that I am a member of this fine community. Each year many students and some of the faculty move on, but this community survives & thrives, through our collective efforts.
Make sure you thank your teachers for all they do to prepare you for success!
To Administrators and the Board of Trustees – Please keep this thought in your sights at all times, teachers are the life blood of Bapst, take care of them; they are integral to the long-term quality of this community.
Now …Time to have some fun…sharing gifts with some of you.
Many of you know that I gave away about 25 neckties to 9th graders over the past couple months. I have a few special neckties to give out!
To: Mr Sinclair –TAZ dunking a basketball…no explanation needed
To: Mrs Lammert – Wear this necktie, and I guarantee that your classes will immediately understand this concept: EXOTHERMIC CHEMICAL REACTION
This is my Looney Tunes tie…one of my favorites. Giving someone a Looney Tunes tie could be very awkward…. but this gift isn’t…. This tie has Marvin the Martian on it. Every Physics teacher needs a necktie festooned with green Martians. Mr Cheff, you get my Looney Tunes tie.
To Mr. Packard – I give you the tie off my neck, my Seafood and Tabasco Sauce tie. You never hesitated to share what you know about teaching, about what lab to do this week, or where stuff might be hiding in that cluttered lab. Thank you so much!
… Mr Burgess, you can thank me later for giving you this invisible necktie. Thanks for all the coaching and support you gave me!!
To my 3rd floor lunch room buddies, I won’t be around anymore to loan you a fork or spoon. During my tenure at Bapst, I became the ‘go to guy’ for a fork or spoon. In the spirit of Cooper’s ‘What’s sup challenge’ here is your own reusable metal fork and spoon set.
One more thing – Stuart McKay – would you please report to room 302 later today…..you just won the raffle for my wooden snake!! I’m not the only one retiring! Take good care of her.
To Bapst: Thank you so much for these past 5 years !!!
– Ken Beland, A
May 5, 2014