You Want Heroes?

By Frosty Troy

Where are the heroes of today? Too many people are looking for heroes in all the wrong places. Movie stars and rock musicians, athletes and models aren’t heroes–they’re celebrities.

You want heroes?

Consider Dave Sanders, the school teacher shot to death while trying to shield his students from two youth on a bombing and shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Sanders gave his life, along with 12 students, but other less heralded heroes survived the Colorado blood bath.

You want heroes?

Columbine special ed teacher, Robin Ortiz, braved gunfire, moving from classroom to classroom, shouting at students and teachers to get out of the building. His action alone cleared the east side of the high school. No one will ever know how many lives he saved.

You want heroes?

For Ronnie Holuby, a Fort Gibson, OK, middle school teacher, it was a routine school day until gunfire erupted. He opened a door to the school yard and two students fled past him. A 13-year-old student had shot five other students when Holuby stepped outside, walking deliberately toward the boy, telling him to hand over the gun. He kept walking. Finally the boy handed him the gun. Holuby walked the boy to the side of the building, then sought to help a wounded girl.

You want heroes?

Jane Smith, a Fayetteville, N.C., teacher, was moved by the plight of one of her students, a boy dying for want of a kidney transplant. So this pretty white woman told the family of Michael Carter, a handsome 14-year-old black boy, that she would give him one of her kidneys. And she did. When they subsequently appeared together hugging on the Today Show, Katie Couric was near tears.

You want heroes?

Doris Dillon dreamed all her life of being a teacher. She not only made it, she was one of those wondrous teachers who could wring the best out of every single child. One of her fellow teachers in San Jose, CA, said, “She could teach a rock to read.” Suddenly she was stricken with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which is always fatal, usually within five years. She asked to stay on the job – and did. When her voice was affected, she communicated by computer. Did she go home? She was running two elementary school libraries. When the disease was diagnosed, she wrote the staff and all the families that she had one last lesson to teach – that dying is part of living. Her colleagues named her Teacher of the Year.

You want heroes?

Bob House, a teacher in Gay, GA, tried out for Who Wants to be a Millionaire. After he won the million dollars, a network film crew wanted to follow up to see how it had impacted his life. New cars? Big new house? Instead, they found both Bob House and his wife still teaching. They explained that it was what they had always wanted to do with their lives and that would not change. The community was both stunned and gratified.

You want heroes?

Public school teachers spend a lot of their own money for student necessities,  including supplies kids need but cannot afford. The average teacher works more hours in nine months than the average 40-hour employee does in a year.

You want heroes?

For millions of kids, the hug they get from a teacher is the only hug they will get that day.

A Michigan principal moved me to tears with the story of her attempt to rescue a badly abused little boy who doted on a stuffed animal on her desk–one one that said, “I love you!” He said he’d never been told that at home.

This is a constant in today’s society–many unwanted, unloved, abused children in public schools, an institution that takes them all in.

Teachers strive to find the best in their students, even where some see little hope. Teachers leave the world better than they found it. They are America’s unsung heroes.

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