Whew! I just finished off one of the more challenging years in all of my years as a teacher. Two grade levels, 36 students, not much assistance other than the five parents who helped me pull room five to the finish line (thanks guys! I couldn’t have done it without ya). Yet, as I analyze this overwhelming exhaustion, let it settle in as a heavy blanket of beatific fog, my thoughts wander to the other totally exhausted teachers in this school district. I know that many, like me, poured 110% of every fiber of their being into the challenge of providing a structured and intellectually stimulating program for their students. This year, the figures of these community heroes loom even larger in my mind as I think about everything they did for my son, Gasethata Resheng-Neiman. This letter pays homage to the heroes of this community.
My son began his studies at Redway School in the year 2000. He arrived at our school behind in reading and math, but he brought with him excellent writing abilities and the tenacity of a bloodhound. He really struggled those first years, but Dan Brown guided him toward achievement and excellence. The Neiman family owes him our deepest gratitude for helping us guide Gase toward so many wonderful opportunities. Gase then left Redway fully equipped to tackle the challenges of high school life at South Fork, where Mr. Lowry took Gase’s writing to the next level.
I had never seen my boy so motivated to write, so determined to find just the right phrasing, so that he might get a “Not bad” from his demanding writing teacher. With the dogged assistance of teachers like Mrs. Anderson, Ms. Samberg, and Ms. Baily, Gase managed to charge ahead in his studies, eventually earning the honor of “Class Historian.” Just as importantly, however, basketball coaches Dave Bushnell and Dale Neiman took my tall, shy guy and stoked an intensely competitive fire within Gase that has benefitted him greatly at the university level. Again, the entire Neiman family owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to all of those wonderful teachers / coaches at South Fork who poured so much of themselves into the future of our family name.
So what’s Gase up to that makes me feel so grateful, so proud? Let me tell you. He is now a fifth year senior at HSU, where he is majoring in cellular/molecular biology and minoring in chemistry. This is the pre-med track at HSU. He has kept an A- average throughout. His genetics professor was so impressed with his work that she allowed Gase to join her research team, even though he was missing a particular genetics course. This research position has evolved into a well-paid summer internship that has Gase involved in a multi-university project, studying and collecting data on horizontal gene transfer between organisms living in extreme conditions at Mount Lassen National Park.
Keep in mind, all of this success comes after 20 dark months in which Gase lost his mother and two grandparents in rapid succession. When it comes to my son, the only people in this community who contributed in any meaningful way to his intellectual, emotional and ethical development (besides family, friends and two local employers) were teachers. Gasethata’s full name figuratively translates as, “Unity is Strength.” Because the teachers within this district united to support the efforts and ambitions of my son, the Neiman family has managed to punctuate tragedy with triumph, and for that we are forever grateful.