I used to teach with this wonderful woman, we all lovingly called “Trigger.” Trigger was old school, she was a teachers teacher and she used to say all the time, “Lucky, Lucky Us.” I’m not much of a believer in luck, because I think we all make a life from the choices we make, knowingly or unknowingly, but everyday I thank God in my prayers that St. John’s took a chance on a well intended artist who basically had no teaching experience.
I have been driving down Harter Rd. and turning into this driveway …..well pretty much all my life.
The present location of St. John’s Episcopal Church and School was built on the old Harter Farm property. When I was a child, the original Harter family homestead stood just beyond what is now the church and school’s property line. It has since been torn down and replaced with a newer house but the Harter farm water well still stands down near the creek’s edge, even though it has been sealed a long time ago.
Early in my life I have memories of driving over to this property with my parents on the weekends to watch St. John’s new church and school as it was being built. The original campus was across Buckner Blvd about two blocks over from its present location. O’Neil Ford was the principle architect for the church’s new Sanctuary and a aquaintanace of my father. For the longest time I thought we attended St. John’s because of their friendship.
After my brother Taylor was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis he needed to attend a school that could be sensitive to the needs of a chronically ill child. A family friend from our neighborhood suggested St. John’s school. By the time my mother was able to inquire about enrolling him, the school had no openings. Days later my parents got the call that there was a place for Taylor. A couple of years later I started Kindergarten at St. John’s.
At this time the Delabano family were not church goers.
Over this past Christmas I sat down with my mother to talk about the day my brother passed. St. John’s priests, Father Malcom and Father Cotter came to my parents house and told them that they knew we didn’t have a church family. They felt Taylor was a part of the Church/School family so they offered their services. Soon afterward my mother joined the church’s inquirers class and later joined St. John’s Church. Father’s Malcom and Cotter’s simple act of kindness cemented my family to this place.
In 1967 St. John’s school only went through 3rd grade so then I attended public school. My family continued to attend St. John’s Church. At age 13 I was baptized and then 7 years later my wife and I were married at St. John’s by Father Robert Maceo. At 88 my mother continues to sing in the choir every Sunday.
After graduate school and moving back to Dallas, I worked at the Refinery Casting Company. It was a dangerous job and very little protection was offered to their workers. One day at work, a man’s legs got crushed when a hoist failed. I worked there as the shop foreman, mold and pattern maker for seven years when I got a call that changed the trajectory of my life.
The call came from Mrs. Grace Cook who was the St. John’s head of school. A teacher had become pregnant and the school needed an art teacher. I was hired to teach Pre-K through 8th grade art for the first couple of years. That same week I got a call from St. John’s, I also got a call from Brookhaven college where I was offered a job to teach sculpture and 3-D design at night. So I went from being a foundry man to an art teacher. So between the two jobs, my students ran from Pre-K through 85 years old.
Being open to the possibilities
Teaching was not even on the radar when I got the call. Certainly not teaching children in general……middle school in particular. Matter of fact, I went into it thinking that this would only be a transition job. I ignorantly thought that if you had to teach, then really what you wanted was a college job and a tenure track. For the first 19 years of my teaching career I taught at St. John’s daily and then drove out to Farmer’s Branch and taught at Brookhaven College two nights a week.
My thinking about teaching has evolved over the years. Little did I understand early on what teaching, and teaching at St. John’s would come to mean to me. My plans were to never teach middle school for more than 1 year……much less, 29 years.
My plan was an epic fail. I never thought that I would fall in love with my day job and still be in love with it 29 years later.
Lucky, lucky me. But St. John’s is so much more….it is a wonderful place for children to learn and grow up.
St. John’s Mission
We are dedicated to a program of academic excellence designed to train the mind, strengthen the character and enrich the spirit of each student in a Christian environment.
Five Tenets of Episcopal Education
These principles are reflected in our mission statement, guide our decisions and actions, and shape the environment we create for our students. The principles also influence our Board of Trustees in its governance role.
- Academic excellence
- Corporate worship (Episcopal/Christian chapel)
- Religious studies based on basic biblical content
- Meaningful and integrated community service and service learning projects
- An inclusive community where the dignity of every human being is respected
Every school has a mission statement and every school works to fulfill it’s mission. And if we only fulfilled our mission we would be a good school, but I believe that the people I work with make it all the more special place to teach and learn.
My job has grown. As part of my job now, I am in constant contact with our alums. One common denominator I hear from our former students is that “our teachers loved us and told us they loved us. Not only did our teachers love us and tell us they did, but they shared their passion for the subjects they taught. They also encouraged and empowered us to follow our own passions.”
When I first started our school’s alumni program I was told that people wouldn’t care about their elementary and junior high schools but I have found that to be as far from the truth as I could have imagined. We have alums of all ages come back to visit the school almost weekly.
There is something about this place….something very special. Despite my plans, God had another one for me and as we like to say around here, “God willing and the creek don’t rise” (we have a creek that flows through our campus that floods the entrance usually at some point during the spring ). So God willing and the creek don’t rise, I pray to be here in the classroom, sharing my love of art and music for ten more years and retire at 70 so that I might spend more time in the studio…..and then continue to work with our alumni.
I often tell my students….. be open to life and what it might have to offer you. I once heard a quote attributed to John Lennon, “Life is what happens when you are making plans,” and indeed that’s how life often unfolds.
I pray all my students are open to the possibilities that life will present to them. I pray my students find their passion and find someway to parlay that into a life with purpose.
So as my dear friend Trigger used to say, and I continue to say daily……Lucky, lucky us.
For more information about St. John’s Church and School.
St. John’s Episcopal School Prayer Wall