Connecting a Community through Social Media

With this being the season for caring for others and giving thanks, I wanted to share a wonderful way social media is being used to honor a retired educator in my hometown.

This fall, we found out our recently retired band teacher and athletic director was suffering from cancer and not doing well. His treatments were becoming very difficult, and his health prognosis for the long term is not good.

In October, his son decided to start a secret social media group on Facebook and asked his former students to share stories and anecdotes about their time with his father. Within days, the group grew to more than 2,000 people and has now ballooned to more than 3,500 members.

To put the numbers in perspective, the population of my hometown is a little more than 8,000 people, so 3,500 is a significant group for the size of the community. While the entire town is sad about the the prognosis, the outpouring on social media has been nothing short of amazing.

Students began to fill the page with stories, anecdotes and photos right away. Shortly thereafter, parents, co-workers, friends, family members and many others joined the group. All were sharing favorite memories about the teacher – the good, bad, ugly and funny. It is an entire lifetime of memories and photos shared on one Facebook group page.

Personally, I have seen many memorials after someone has passed away, but this is the first time I have seen an outpouring of this magnitude for someone who is still living.

For a few weeks, the posts were kept from the teacher. Then, as he started going through some difficult treatments he was added to the page. Reading the posts helped distract him from the pain and helped him pull through. He still reads and responds to the posts on a regular basis and notes that he is still “alive and kicking!”

As I have been reading the postings and observing this outpouring of goodwill, I wanted to share this wonderful way to celebrate the life of a retired teacher. What a tremendous way to show education professionals the impact they have on the lives of thousands of students throughout their career.

3 Replies to “Connecting a Community through Social Media”

  1. Very nice. Our alumni started a similar Facebook page for a retired teacher who was losing his battle to cancer. After his death, a memorial service was held at the school and the auditorium was PACKED! The alumni printed out the thousands of posts and mounted them on huge pieces of poster board, to present to his widow–also a teacher in our district. The outpouring was enormous!

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