I’ve been dreading writing this goodbye because I don’t want it to be true and because I don’t think I can do Declan justice by fully explaining how much his presence as editor of the Nugget has helped me over the past 2 years.
When I was first hired to teach at Helena High last year, I had no experience running a student newspaper. I leaned on the co-editors, Declan and Jaurdyn Johnson, to show me the ropes. Together we followed a simple routine – brainstorm article ideas, write, copy edit, and repeat. We were a small group and got to know one another well over the course of the school year. Sadly, everyone but Declan was a senior, so I knew I’d be losing almost the entire staff at the end of year. I probably should have been more panicked, but truthfully, I wasn’t too worried. I vividly remember thinking to myself, “As long as Declan is still the editor, the Nugget will be in good hands.”
At the start of this school year, Declan took on a much larger role in the newspaper room because the journalism and newspaper classes were combined, making it difficult for me to play the same hands-on role I’d loved the year before. I handed off most of the responsibility to Declan, and as usual, he didn’t let me down. He created a room where, yeah the kids play a little too much Minecraft, but everyone feels valued and understands what is expected of them. I have loved reading the articles by this young newspaper staff and am consistently impressed by their talent.
If you know Declan, you know he’s amazingly involved in and dedicated to Helena High. I swear, he reminds me of Ferris Bueller, only he’s the kid who would pull off some hairbrained scam to sneak in to the high school rather than out. Aside from being the newspaper editor, he is also the president of Thespian Club, creator of Film Club, Kahoot Club, and Entertainment 720. Basically most lunch periods he can be found in my classroom having a great time talking about films, playing random Kahoot games, and watching fun YouTube videos.
To anyone who thinks teens today are living in la-la land, don’t know hard work, and break down at the first challenge they face, well, they don’t know the young people I teach every day, and they definitely don’t know Declan. Watching Declan makes me think it’s the adults who are lazy! And Declan doesn’t quit; he believes you should always finish what you start because it guarantees you will learn something in the process. Last year he wrote, directed, and starred in the play Edgar and Delilah and the Voices in Our Heads which won “Outstanding Student Writing” from the Montana Thespian Society. This year he directed the murder-mystery Who Dun Didily Done It and wrote a hilarious comedy called Skipper about how political correctness is impossible, and if it were possible, it wouldn’t be any fun.
As editor of the newspaper, Declan has his own desk in my office. He’s typically there a few minutes after I unlock the door first thing in the morning and sometimes still there when I lock the door as I leave for the day. Most lunch periods I happily join in with whatever club is gathered that day, and Declan is almost always there.So when I say I’m going to miss him, I mean I’m going to miss the great conversations we have, his recommendations about movies and shows I should check out, reading and editing his plays, and the genuine optimism and enthusiasm for life he seems to carry with him everywhere.
People say teachers and students can’t be friends and I tend to agree. There are too many legitimate concerns from society for a true friendship to form between teachers and students. There’s the age issue, the balance of power problem, and a lot of other understandable barriers. But at the end of the day, a friend is someone you hold in high esteem, someone you trust and respect, and someone with whom you can be honest. I can honestly say, Declan, I’m going to miss you as a friend.