Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Always a Comet

Yesterday evening I checked my Facebook feed randomly as we drove home and saw the news that a teacher I had, who later became a co-worker of mine, suddenly passed away. I sat in stunned silence for a moment, unsure if it was even true. The more posts I saw, the more real it became. Yet Dave McCormick has a personality that is larger than life. It is difficult to fathom someone who is filled with so much life is simply not here.

I met Dave in the fall of 1995 as a high school junior; then Mr. McCormick to me. I was new to Coventry High School. Choosing to leave behind the school district where I had been since kindergarten to attend CHS for a music program. I rode to school each morning with my dad, one of the guidance counselors (I know, talk about following in footsteps...). Because dad went in early (we left the house at 4:30am, yikes!) I was always there before all the other students. My hangout of preference was the cafeteria. Our high school was converted from a former entertainment complex, and our cafeteria was the old restaurant. We had booths for tables. It was fabulous. My neighbor (who had also chosen to transfer districts) and I would sit there alone for over an hour, doing our hair, makeup, eating breakfast treats from the cooks, and chatting with Mr. McCormick-the first teacher to arrive most every day. He was hysterical. Told us jokes. Was loud. Called me Wronkie-which stuck. He made us feel part of the school culture. We were two new kids that weren't quite sure where we fit in at the beginning. But that is how he was with every student at CHS-made sure they belonged.

Next school year in Senior Government, I witnessed the same thing in action. My Government class fell during the final block of the day for me. I was usually droopy-eyed, but you couldn't doze off in Mr. McCormick's class. Nope. He was every bit a big personality in front of his classroom as he was out of it. He would teach us about laws and governing through stories. And they stuck. I still remember an example about why school property is searchable-having something to do with a student dropping cherry bombs down a toilet and causing horrific damage. We were in tears as he told us about the "victim" of the story. And he never told a story sitting down. More like standing on his table.

Years later I accepted a teaching position right out of college in the English department at CHS. I would be teaching Senior English, Speech, and Yearbook. When I showed up that summer to begin to get my classroom and office ready, who was there to greet me but Dave? A giant bear hug and exuberant welcome. Watching him from my new perspective it was clear just how important he was to the student body. The amazing pep rallies he ran that included everyone. The personality that dominated our wing as students passed by. The energy he brought to all the after school events. He promoted student activities tirelessly-from athletics, student council, to music and drama. If it was happening in the school, Dave was there.

I left CHS after one school year to move across the state for a new teaching position and to begin graduate school. Eventually I got married, finished graduate school, became a school counselor, and have put down roots here. But a very large part of me will always be a Coventry Comet. Yes, I attended a different school district for 11 years. Yet the two years I spent at Coventry changed me in profound ways. When I think about high school I always call to mind the hallways at the North Campus. The friends I have kept in touch with from high school are the ones I made sitting in the booths of our cafeteria or in the back hallways of the music wing. Dave McCormick is an inseparable part of those memories. Farewell teacher, mentor, friend. You shall be among the stars now-so fitting for a Comet.

For those wanting information, here is a link to the obituary.