City teacher's 'Best Foot Forward' recognized

Published on Sunday, 8 October 2017 22:41
Written by SUSAN CORICA

STAFF WRITER

BRISTOL - “What do teachers truly want for their students? What can parents do that will have the greatest lifelong impact on their child’s education? Are you a student overwhelmed with school and life?”

“Best Foot Forward: A Student Success Guide with Life Skills Strategies for the Road Ahead” promises the answers to these questions and more.

The book has recently been released in a second edition co-authored by English teacher Ray LeCara Jr.

LeCara is on leave of absence from his job at Bristol Eastern High School. He said his friend Glenn Nicholson Jr. published the original edition in 2011. LeCara said he was inspired by Nicholson’s message so he shared some ideas to expand the book and help it achieve a broader audience.

“‘Best Foot Forward’ is dear to me,” LeCara told the Board of Education recently. “Imagine as an educator being able to put into words what we do in the classroom, and out of the classroom. Imagine putting that into words so anybody who holds it will be inspired and empowered or motivated.”

He explained that he took the original publication and separated it into three different sections: Motivation, Study Skills and Good Health. “I feel they are the cornerstones for success,” he said.

For example, with Study Skills “as educators we’re trying to empower our students to realize that we all are lifelong learners,” he said. “So even though the book itself is for middle school through high school age students, it really does have a message for us all. Those skills are not just for use in school but for after you graduate.”

Even if the target audience doesn’t connect with some of the sections, there is a message woven throughout the book “that you have power, you matter,” he said. “Because, let’s face it, not everybody has those people in our lives who are providing us with that support on a daily basis.”

Chris Wilson, board chairman, said even though he has known LeCara for years he only recently realized he is an author who has published science fiction and short stories in addition to “Best Foot Forward.”

At a board meeting, Wilson read aloud a section from the book explaining some of LeCara’s motivations for co-authoring it:

“Part of what makes us effective teachers is not just connecting with students. It isn’t just knowing the curriculum. It is our ability to experience a subject and content the way they do, to see it through their eyes, regardless of the subject area. It isn’t about getting published as much as it is about putting ourselves out there like our students, truly agonizing and suffering over our choices, getting critiqued and reviewed, sharing successes and failures, inspiring them to embrace their passions in spite of successes or failures, understanding that there is no such thing as a final draft.”

Wilson said reading those words made him think “this is the type of teacher that we’re proud to have in the Bristol schools.”

He also read a letter from one of LeCara’s students:

“I remember on the first day of class in sophomore year, before I even knew you I already thought you were amazing. You were funny, energetic and you made class fun. You gave kids nicknames right from the beginning and remembered them throughout the whole year. That’s something that a lot of kids, including me, will remember and adore about you. You showed each and every one of us that we weren’t just another student, that we were all special to you in some way, shape, or form.”

“Now I don’t remember exactly what day this happened,” the student’s letter continued, “and I doubt you’ll remember it at all, because it probably wasn’t something as important to you as it was to me. But I remember only a few classes into the year, maybe four classes in, I came to your class crying. I was having a terrible day and it was last period. I had just had enough. I sat in my seat with my face in my hands, trying to keep everybody from seeing that I was crying, but you noticed. You didn’t verbally say anything to me, but you know what you did - you took out a sticky note and wrote ‘you OK?’ on it, and stuck it on my desk, put your hand on my shoulder and gave me an empathetic smile and walked back to you desk.”

“Mr. LeCara, you have no idea how much you have meant to me, how much it still means to me to this day. I still have that sticky note, and it sticks to my door with all of my other memories. It hasn’t been moved once. It stays where I put it because it’s a little piece of paper that means the world to me that you cared on that day, when I thought no one did, and that’s something that I will remember and forever be grateful to you for,” the student concluded.

Board member Joseph Grabowski echoed Wilson’s and the student’s comments about LeCara, who was his English teacher when he was a senior in high school.

“He really helped me a lot when I needed it,” Grabowski said. “My writing improved quite a bit because of him. I still have all those ‘free writes’ we did in the mornings, so I want to thank him personally for all the help he offered.”

“Best Foot Forward: A Student Success Guide with Life Skills Strategies for the Road Ahead” is available from Amazon.com.

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or scorica@bristolpress.com.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, 8 October 2017 22:41. Updated: Sunday, 8 October 2017 22:44.