Paying It Forward: The Impact of Teachers and Coaches

By Jeff Glosser

students saying thank you to a teacher

Being a teacher is a profession many choose out of a passion for making a positive difference in young people’s lives. The idea to “serve others,” is often the center of this profession, as the hours a teacher works outside of their classroom are often equal to or more than the time they spend in their classroom. These hours outside the classroom are often where the mentoring, life lessons and “planting seeds” take place for a teacher to make a positive impact of their students. 

In most cases, teachers must have faith and trust that the seeds they are planting will make a positive difference whether that be immediately or years from when the lesson was taught. I say this because most students don’t come back to say thank you or to let their teachers know how life worked out for them, so faith is the driving force that gives teachers the energy to keep serving their students. When a student or students do come back to say thank you, it is a very special moment for the teacher and a reminder of why teaching is a profession that changes and impacts young people’s lives.

Two weeks ago, I attended a unique reunion to say thank you to a teacher 45 years after the activity took place.

In the 1970s, elementary schools in San Francisco were K – 6, middle schools were grades 7 – 9 and high schools were grades 10 – 12. After school sports were very competitive at the middle schools and leagues were run similar to high school sports.

However in 1971, due to budget cuts, San Francisco eliminated the after school sports programs for the public schools. At the time, my father was the PE teacher at Aptos Junior High School. Knowing how much his students wanted and needed these sports programs, he created his own BAA (Boys Athletic Association) for 35 ninth graders. We all learned at the reunion that the 35 students were randomly selected. Many were not good athletes, but all were nice kids that my father liked. Three days a week, these 35 students would meet after school and play a variety of sports. Both individual and team sports took place over this year. Scores were kept, overall totals were tallied and championships were awarded. The end-of-the-year banquet was actually a 20-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Moss Beach, where all 35 students slept over at a beach house and then rode back home the next day.

Fast forward 45 years. All 35 of these students are now 60 years old. Two of them have remained lifelong friends. They reflected on different events that impacted their lives when they both began talking about the BAA. Being part of the BAA was high on their list for a variety of reasons. As they begin reminiscing, they found the list of the 35 members and decided to reach out to a few of them. Each conversation continued to focus on their ninth grade after school sports group.

“It was the highlight of my middle school experience.”

“It kept me out of trouble.”

“I took second place in the overall standings at the end of that year.”

“It was the springboard to a successful high school athletic career.”

Many individual accomplishments like these were mentioned. What they all mentioned, though, was the influence that Mr. Glosser had on each individual and how he volunteered his time to do that program.

As one conversation became two and two became four, eight, sixteen… it was universally decided to have a reunion to say thank you. One thank you was read that summed up the night:

Dear Coach:

All of us want to honor you and your forward-thinking from way back in the early 1970s. Who would realize the impact you would have on a bunch of adolescent boys when you created the BAA at Aptos? Funny, I cannot remember much from that time other than hanging out after school in the BAA.

To this date, I have no idea why I was asked to be part of the BAA. I had little, if any, athletic skills. I was that chubby kid who was always picked last for the team. I couldn’t run or even do a pull-up. Perhaps I was chosen to serve as the mascot or as a charity case. But I was picked and I became part of the “team.” And a member of the team I became.  Perhaps I was asked to join for another reason?

Perhaps I was asked to be part of the BAA because, although I couldn’t do, I always tried. To date, this is what I believe to be true. And if this is so, you taught me a very valuable life lesson. You can do or do not; regardless, you always have to try. Without trying you will never achieve your goals. Little did I know that then? Armed with that lesson I was able to succeed in life.

If you did not create the BAA, I would not have even tried participating in sports. But I did, and what did I learn? I realized that I was accepted for who I was and not my skill level. Perhaps you taught me an even bigger life lesson there? The lesson to accept all others, regardless.

I do not remember the fatherly advice; I just remember hanging with the other kids playing sports after school. But the impact of the BAA on me was carried for my whole life. Carried through high school where I tried playing football. Carried through college where I earned my various degrees. Carried into my professional career and lastly carried as I raised my own kids, where I shared these same life lessons with them. Perhaps the fatherly advice was not your words but your actions. However, they were delivered – we all heard them loud and clear.

Regardless, as a member of BAA, I wanted to thank you for the impact this program had on all of us. It made a significant positive impact on all our lives as we transformed from snot-nosed kids to young adults, making us all better adults in the process. I only hope that in my life, I can have the same positive impact you had on us when you created the BAA.

As I read this note and experienced the day and evening, my thoughts jumped to GCU. What our students are doing in the Learning Lounge, our Students Inspiring Students program and Canyon Cares can be similar to this BAA group. As a father recently told GCU President Brian Mueller, “My two girls look forward every Saturday to the GCU students who come by and pick them up for the park. The impact this has made on my girls is priceless and appreciated by my wife and me.”

Our students are making a positive impact that is mentioned above. When I hear numerous stories about our Learning Lounge students attending an athletic or theater event that their high school mentee is performing in, I know they are making a life impact moment.

The willingness to give your time and positive energy to young people is invaluable. One of the themes of our Student Inspiring Students program is to “pay it forward.” Whether it is helping the next high school student with academic or life coaching, take something a teacher or coach taught you and pay it forward through helping the next person.

Sometimes the impact and appreciation are immediate. If you become a teacher or coach, the lessons you teach can often be appreciated many years later. For my father, the appreciation was formally recognized 45 years after the event. But the lessons taught and the opportunities these 35 young men had to make friends, be productive with their time, be accepted for who they were and learn to try their best every day, have been practiced for 45 years and appreciated by all.

The College of Education at Grand Canyon University helps prepare education students to be highly effective educators. Learn more by visiting our website or contacting us using the Request More Information button at the top of the page.

More about Jeff Glosser:

Jeff Glosser is the director of academic alliances, working especially close with Catholic schools and Dioceses throughout the country and GCU’s Canyon Christian Schools Consortium. Jeff spent the previous 25 years as an administrator, teacher, coach, and director of counseling at three Catholic high schools in California and Arizona. Jeff earned his undergraduate degree in business from Loyola Marymount University and his master’s degree in educational administration from California State University, Bakersfield. Along with his duties in Strategic Educational Alliances, Jeff also coaches club baseball at GCU and a youth baseball team in the Valley.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.