BRISTOL - âWhat do teachers truly want for their students? What can parents do that will have the greatest lifelong impact on their childâs education? Are you a student overwhelmed with school and life?â
âBest Foot Forward: A Student Success Guide with Life Skills Strategies for the Road Aheadâ 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 Nicholsonâs message so he shared some ideas to expand the book and help it achieve a broader audience.
ââBest Foot Forwardâ is dear to me,â LeCara told the Board of Education recently. âImagine 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.â
He explained that he took the original publication and separated it into three different sections: Motivation, Study Skills and Good Health. âI feel they are the cornerstones for success,â he said.
For example, with Study Skills âas educators weâre trying to empower our students to realize that we all are lifelong learners,â he said. âSo 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.â
Even if the target audience doesnât connect with some of the sections, there is a message woven throughout the book âthat you have power, you matter,â he said. âBecause, letâs face it, not everybody has those people in our lives who are providing us with that support on a daily basis.â
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 âBest Foot Forward.â
At a board meeting, Wilson read aloud a section from the book explaining some of LeCaraâs motivations for co-authoring it:
âPart of what makes us effective teachers is not just connecting with students. It isnât 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 isnât 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.â
Wilson said reading those words made him think âthis is the type of teacher that weâre proud to have in the Bristol schools.â
He also read a letter from one of LeCaraâs students:
âI 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. Thatâs something that a lot of kids, including me, will remember and adore about you. You showed each and every one of us that we werenât just another student, that we were all special to you in some way, shape, or form.â
âNow I donât remember exactly what day this happened,â the studentâs letter continued, âand I doubt youâll remember it at all, because it probably wasnât 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 didnât verbally say anything to me, but you know what you did - you took out a sticky note and wrote âyou OK?â 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.â
âMr. 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 hasnât been moved once. It stays where I put it because itâs a little piece of paper that means the world to me that you cared on that day, when I thought no one did, and thatâs something that I will remember and forever be grateful to you for,â the student concluded.
Board member Joseph Grabowski echoed Wilsonâs and the studentâs comments about LeCara, who was his English teacher when he was a senior in high school.
âHe really helped me a lot when I needed it,â Grabowski said. âMy writing improved quite a bit because of him. I still have all those âfree writesâ we did in the mornings, so I want to thank him personally for all the help he offered.â
âBest Foot Forward: A Student Success Guide with Life Skills Strategies for the Road Aheadâ is available from Amazon.com.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.