StoryCorps Door-to-Door headed to Missoula, Montana for the National Teacher’s Initiative through a partnership with Graduation Matters Missoula. Facilitator Luis Gallo and I embarked on a journey into the wilderness. In keeping with the theme of our trip, it was an education. Moose, bald eagles, deer sightings, sweeping vistas of mountains, and rivers coursing through valleys, it felt as far away from our Brooklyn headquarters as one could get. Just as impressive were the teachers, educators, students, and parents we met during interviews at the Missoula Education Association.
Father and son Wayne and Sean Beddow are both teachers and arrived not quite knowing what to expect, but they gradually warmed to the process of telling their story. Over the course of the conversation, their love of teaching, coaching basketball, and their influence on one another became apparent.
“I think there are two kinds of teachers,” Wayne said. “Those that select the profession and those that the profession selects them.” Wayne describes himself as having fallen into the latter camp. “For the longest time I never had the feeling that I was going to work.” Upon learning that his son wanted to become a teacher too, Wayne was initially concerned.
“I remember the time you made a decision you were going to go into education, and I was opposed to it,” Wayne remembers. “I was set to try to talk you out of it. Teaching is not for everybody. But your mother said, ‘Don’t you say a word. You found your own way. Let him do this.’”
Wayne didn’t reveal his apprehensions about Sean becoming a teacher until their StoryCorps conversation that day. However, as a teacher and as a father, Wayne may not have realized how much influence he had on his son’s decision. He would take Sean to the gym for basketball practice, and the relationships Sean formed with the student/athletes left an indelible impression.
Wayne has a saying that he has committed to song: I grew up with my old friends / I’m growing old with my new friends / I’m so glad you’re my best friend. “It sums up what education did [for me],” he says. Many of his students over the years have become friends. “It’s not the mentor/teacher or student/coach relationship anymore. We’re friends.”
Sean continues his father’s legacy by teaching and coaching and through friendship. According to Sean, “A big part of my motivation and inspiration to take the path I have was the relationships you built and the relationships I was able to form by you being involved in the school and coaching. The relationships I have now with coaches and students is what makes it [teaching] enjoyable.”