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December 13, 2011 8:43 am

The Amend corner: Famous? For what?

Written by Don Amend

Recently, as he introduced me to a group of visitors to the Tribune, my boss commented that my claim to fame is that I had once been Pittsburgh Steeler defensive end Bret Keisel’s teacher.

Well, I don’t know about that. It is true that the big fellow was once one of my students, but I don’t know about that “claim to fame” part. For one thing, I don’t think I’m famous, and I don’t particularly want to be.

For another, I had absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Keisel’s prowess on the football field, aside from officiating some of his middle school and intrasquad experiences. The subject of sports sometimes came up in my English or government classes, but we hardly ever talked about defensive alignments or how to sack a quarterback, those subjects being completely outside my expertise.

Besides, I haven’t watched an NFL football game for going on 10 years, now, which pretty much covers Brett’s career with the Steelers, so, except for a few highlights, I haven’t seen him in action since he left Greybull High School.

More important, I reject the notion that I should be famous for teaching any one student, even one who appears somewhat regularly on Sunday television. After all, I taught a bunch of them in 33 years, and, while I don’t think any of them are what I’d call famous, they play important roles in life as we know it here in the U.S.

Last week, for example, one of my former students cleaned my teeth. She didn’t learn how to do that from me, of course, but I did participate in her education. Since she probably does a lot of teeth around town, that fact should make her my claim to fame here in Powell, but probably it doesn’t.

There are others around town who could be my claim to fame as well. One of them might be doing your taxes in the next few months, for example, and another might check you in at the doctor’s office, and if you’re in high school, the odds are you’ll spend time with a teacher I used to teach.

In the broader world, one of my former students is on Sen. John Barrasso’s staff, which should make me famous with the Republican majority. But Democrats can idolize me, as well, because another former student served as counsel to the Democrats in the Washington Legislature and helped draft a resolution to impeach President George W. Bush.

I’ve also been teacher to a career Army chaplain, a couple of Navy pilots and many other members of the military. I’ve given assignments to a bunch of teachers, school administrators and college professors. Also on my list are doctors, nurses, physicians’ assistants and one physical therapist at the Mayo Clinic.

There are bankers, lawyers, geologists, engineers, farmers and business owners who at one time sat in my classroom, and my former students include one current Wyoming legislator, a county attorney, a former mayor and a number of school board and town council members. Some are also working in law enforcement, including a Billings cop who was once given an award for making the most DUI arrests during the year.

I can’t say how big my role was in any of the success these students have achieved, and I’m not taking credit for it. Whatever contribution I made, it was as part of a team, just as it is in any school, and what the students did with that education after they graduated is to their credit, not mine. In fact, to tell the truth, I’m amazed at the achievements of a few of them.

The point is that I participated in the education of a lot of people who have made, and continue to make, contributions to society through their careers, their public service, or simply as stay-at-home moms or dads. That’s why I’m a bit put off that my only “claim to fame” is because of one football player. I figure I’ve contributed a lot more than that to the world.

It’s not that I’m against football or sports in general. I was kind of tickled a few years ago when both head coaches in the Wyoming Shrine Game were among my former students, and I’m happy to say I contributed to the education of PHS wrestling coach Nathan Urbach. But I’m also happy to have taught a non-athletic coach at Powell High School, drama director Bob Hunt, especially since the two of them have combined to bring five state championships back to Powell in the last five years.

So, yeah, I did once teach an NFL player who has made a splash in the media, but I taught a bunch more kids who have made important contributions without the fame, and I’m happy to have been a part of their learning as well.

And when I think about it, I might get the most satisfaction from of having taught Rhonda Faulkner, the tooth cleaner I mentioned earlier. That’s because, whatever the merits of my teaching career, I have at least one former student whom I can trust to poke sharp instruments in my mouth without having revenge on her mind.

That may not constitute a claim to fame, but it certainly makes me feel good.

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