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Teach it Forward and Reap it Forever

by Professor Joe Martin

Sometimes the smallest gifts are the greatest gifts. I should know, because my physical education teacher made an impact on my life that I have not soon forgotten.

I had just completed my final exam (don’t ask me why we had to take a written exam in P.E.), when I attempted to turn it in to my teacher, Coach Bruce. However, when I went to give it to him, Coach Bruce passed a hand-written note to me.

He insisted that I not open it and asked me to read it later. Bewildered, I just agreed and proceeded to leave.

Later that afternoon, as I stood in my room getting ready to change in something more comfortable, I felt the note Coach Bruce had given me stuffed in my back pocket.

I immediately remember he had given it to me, so I proceeded to read it.




The note said the following:

“Joe, it was an absolute pleasure to have you in my class this year. Your attitude and work ethic was a joy to watch. I can’t tell you how much I looked forward to seeing you everyday.

The reason I wrote you this note is because I’m not sure if I’ll ever get a chance to speak to you again. However, I just want you to know that I am certain I will be reading about you and seeing your face again, because I know you’re going to do some extraordinary things in your life and impact a lot of people.

So I’m writing you this note so when you do indeed become ‘famous” and I read and hear about you one day, you’ll know that I was first to say ‘I told you so.’ Good luck and God bless.”

My initial reaction was the same as yours, “Wow.” Then my reaction moved from unbelief to proud. For the first time, in a long time, I felt there was greatness inside of me. As a child, I suffered from low self-esteem, and I wanted desperately to win the approval of others, especially men; because my father wasn’t active in my life as a child.

I can’t tell you what Coach Bruce’s letter did for my spirit, my self-esteem, and my attitude towards school. Yeah, it was just P.E., but for some reason it represented much more than that. I saved his note and carried with me throughout college, eventually graduating at the top of my class and being voted “Most Outstanding Student” in my major.

As a result of Coach Bruce’s impact, when I became a teacher, I quickly made it a tradition to pick one student in each of my classes (not necessarily the one with the highest grade), and I would give him or her a similar note on the last day of class (just like Coach Bruce did). All I can say now is I know how Coach Bruce must have felt when he gave the note to me. Because I seem to get as much pleasure out of giving it to my students as I did receiving it from Coach Bruce.

As new teacher (or even a veteran one), I encourage you today to look for unique ways you can celebrate and encourage a student, colleague, or administrator at your school. I guarantee you, you’ll be making a down payment on a future blessing. If you don’t believe me, just ask Coach Bruce.


Joe Martin is an award-winning national speaker, author, professor, and educational consultant. His mission is to help students, teachers, and administrators learn, lead, and live with purpose and passion. To find out more visit his web site at


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