In the spirit of Teacher Appreciation Week, I wanted to share an exchange I had six years ago with my high school teacher/coach. Like so many great teachers out there he changed my life. Teachers possess the greatest power in the universe. The power to impact the life of a student. Let’s appreciate all the teachers who are on a mission to make a difference and take the time to show they care and, in the process, leave an incredible legacy.
Are you the Tony Caiazza who coached at Smithtown East? If you are, you changed my life and I just want to say thank you!
Yes I am. I coached some Great teams & athletes at Smithtown East! Please share more with me!!!!
I responded with this email.
Tony, you encouraged me to go out for the freshman lacrosse team. I played basketball and you told me I would be good at lacrosse. I never played before and couldn’t catch the ball and tried to quit. You wouldn’t let me. You told me I was going to play lacrosse in college one day. You even said I would play in the Ivy League because I was a good student. I graduated in 1989 and played lacrosse at Cornell University for Richie Moran. Playing lacrosse at Cornell changed my life and if it weren’t for you I would have quit. If it weren’t for you I would venture to say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Now, I speak to professional sports teams, college teams, businesses and school districts around the country. I often talk about YOU and how you believed in me, wouldn’t let me quit and changed the course of my life. I’d love to send you my books if you would like. You’re in the acknowledgement section of Training Camp. If there is anything I can do to give back to you and your school or team please let me know. It’s the least I can do.
Tony responded with an email that taught me the power of appreciation. He wrote:
Jon, you don't know how much your email means to me! It's just as exciting as winning the Lottery! Ironically, as I turn 55 this October, I am at the phase of my life where you spend a lot of time in reflection ie; "The Road Not Taken". Recently, I have been faced with many challenges both professionally & personally. Your communication could not have been better timed!!!! It provided instant verification of who I am & what I am all about and why I went into the field of education & coaching. I always talk of the book the "Giving Tree" and that has always been the fabric of my humble existence. I have been a Dean of Students at Oceanside for the past 28 years. I have coached both football & lacrosse here and have also been the Head Lacrosse coach at Dowling College from 1993-2000. My assistant, Tim Boyle took over the program in 2001 & last year won the National Championship! The impossible dream? I think so! I was invited back for the ring ceremony, it was a proud moment! I would love to read your books! Keep in touch.... YOU MADE MY DAY!... MONTH!...YEAR!!!! I shared your communication with those close to me & with those who question me... for both it was well served!! THANKS FOR PROVIDING THE "GUSTO" IN A TIME MUCH NEEDED!
After reading Tony’s email, I realized how important it is to reach out to those who made a difference in our lives and let them know. They need to hear it more than we think and so do their families. This was an email I received the other day from Tony’s wife.
My name is Patti and I am Tony’s wife. I wanted to send you a message to let you know how grateful to you my children and I for taking the time to reach out to Tony. Your email reminded Tony and all of us how his compassion and dedication to teaching and coaching makes a difference. Your words also enlighten my children to understand how powerful taking the time to stop and thank the people along your journey can be. My daughter will be a sophomore at Molloy College this coming fall. She recently attended a week long leadership conference for the school. One of her workshops required her to deliver a speech on inspiration. She knew exactly what her subject should be. She spoke about your email, your dedication to Tony, who you were and was proud to tell about her Dad’s devotion to teaching and coaching and the difference he has made to so many. She looks forward to following in her father’s footsteps. She coaches lacrosse with Tony on the weekends and is majoring in Math Secondary Education. Her goal is to be a Guidance Counselor one day. She received many accolades regarding her presentation from her peers and professors. They are considering adding a workshop discussing the power of acknowledgement and gratitude for those who inspire and encourage for next year’s conference. In closing, I would just like you to know the impact you have had to my family. Tony was so touched by your email. When each of my kids were born, Tony bought them the book The Giving Tree. This summer all of us will be reading Training Camp. With Much Gratitude,
I asked Tony and Patti if I could share our story and correspondence with you. They said yes because they, like me, realized that something very special happened between us. The power of appreciation caused a ripple effect that not only impacted Tony, me and our families but also those who heard Tony’s daughter’s presentation. Our hope is that this ripple effect will continue by inspiring you to thank someone who made a difference in your life. By sharing the power of appreciation you will create your own positive ripples in the lives, hearts and families of those who need to hear your encouraging words, especially a teacher.
I appreciate you!