Joseph McLaughlinYesterday, I learned the sad news that my high school English teacher, Joseph McLaughlin, passed away. I was devastated, and even all these years later, burst into tears immediately upon hearing the news. All of a sudden I was back in 12th grade sitting in his class, learning Shakespeare, studying the song lyrics of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, and solidifying my love of language and literature, which has stayed with me to this day. Memories of my senior trip to England that Joe took a group of us students on came flooding back to me. There I was, my first time in Europe, visiting sites I’d only read about in the past. What an epic experience! And he gave that to us.

I’ve been looking at photos from that England trip, and my yearbook. I keep seeing Joe in the photos and smiling through my tears. He was an amazing teacher, mentor, friend, and person. He was such a positive force and influence on so many of us… on me personally and professionally. Joe influenced me as a reader, writer, teacher, and traveler.

I was thrilled to reconnect with him on Facebook years ago. I remember telling him what an influence he was on me, and how I partially have him to thank for me becoming a writer. He was humble as always, but thanked me for the acknowledgment.

Here’s to all the teachers and mentors that impact us along the way on our journey. If you are lucky enough to have someone like that in your life, please take the time to thank them and let them know how much they mean to you and influenced you. And please join me in raising a glass and giving a hearty cheers and thank you to Joe!