Beyond Compare

A tribute to the lasting impressions of educators
By Aaron Mabry | Jan 26, 2012

During Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama covered an array of topics ranging from the national deficit, to unemployment and job growth, as well as foreign policy and industry in America. However, one topic truly hit home with me as an individual, and invoked a response that I seldom feel from a political platform.
Mid-way through his address, President Obama mentioned that each of us could point to a teacher that changed the trajectory of our lives.  In a reactionary moment of emotion, I immediately empathized with the sentiment behind his words.
In that moment, without thinking twice, I thought of one individual who truly lived up to that role. In each of us, I believe we can all find that one person who truly made a difference in how we saw the world, and changed our lives for the better.
I also believe that in that moment, we immediately feel a sense of encouragement because that one person thought enough of you to simply care; care about who you were, your successes and failures, as well as motivating you to reach your greatest potential.     
In weeks past, I wrote an article that detailed the need to look back on your past experiences to truly understand who you are today. And for me, this one man played an integral role in my development as a young man, and laid the building blocks towards my outlook on life, as well as my most coveted aspirations.
Once my coach and teacher, this man truly epitomized the type of individual that all of us want to someday become. He taught me that the measure of a man was not determined in times of success, but in times of turmoil and defeat. In the years that passed, I learned the value of what daily commitment could breed, each days progress building on the next. From this, I was fortunate enough to revel in the success that his lessons provoked, while keeping in mind the humility and grace that such a station demands.
He taught me to lead and inspired my actions as a role model. He also built my conscious in such a way as when I do make a mistake, I think about how my actions are perceived and the ramifications that follow. In essence, his lessons have followed me throughout my life.
In fact, I think so highly of this man that I’m finding it difficult to put my appreciation into words. For I’m afraid that no amount of what you can read on paper could ever parallel the appreciation I feel in my heart.
Today I’m married; I have a wonderful family and God’s graces have been realized in my short lifetime. Without God’s plan, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And I firmly believe that this man was a part of that plan. For that, I am truly thankful.  
Once a teacher and coach, this man has dedicated his life to the development and education of others and now serves as the principal of Waynesville Middle School.  And for lack of words that can’t express my gratitude, I’d like to thank my role model, Trevor Putnam.  You will always be my coach, an educator and my friend. And without hesitance, just as we should all thank those who inspired us throughout our lives, I pray that God continue to bless you in the pursuit of educating those fortunate enough to cross your path.

Aaron Mabry is a former 800m and 1000m State Champion from Pisgah High School. He ran collegiately at East Carolina University where he had the opportunity to compete in Conference USA. Now married, he’s the Director of the Haywood County Fairgrounds and is an assistant coach for Pisgah’s distance program.