Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saying goodbye to a beloved teacher

Most of my blog posts are silly and fun, which is really just a reflection of me.  However, today I’d like to take a moment to be real because the emotions I am currently feeling are genuinely mournful.  Do forgive any ramblings or even misspellings, because in all honesty, I write this with teary eyes.

Last night the world lost a very precious person. No, you probably didn’t know him; you didn’t even know he existed.  But to me, to his past student, he left an imprint on our hearts.
I woke up this morning to learn that my high school math teacher, Mr. Bertoldie, passed away from a heart attack last night, he was only forty-one years old.

Now many of you might think, “Well that’s sweet, but he was just a high school math teacher.”  However, to this small town girl, it wasn’t the case.  When you go to school in a town where your graduating class is 44 students, teachers don’t just teacher, they nurture, they guide, they imprint on your lives.  That was what Mr. Bertoldie did for me. 
When Mr. Bertoldie first arrived at my school, we students didn’t exactly make his life easy.  We were loud and rambunctious to say the least.  He would get angry with us and frustrated to the point of having to leave the room for a moment just to cool off.  Looking back on those days, I smile but feel guilty at the same time.

I had always been passionate about math (to this day, I still).  My junior year, I wanted to go further into more advanced math, but my desire to stay with my friends trumped that aspiration. So I went on to Mr. Bertoldie’s algebra class.  A few months into my junior, Mr. Bertoldie approached me and asked me to help tutor some of his students who were struggling.  This was a first for me, I never felt I was really good at anything, but here I was, being told I was good enough to teach.  So I helped a few of his students and received A’s on everything I turned in (they would have been A+ but I was bad about showing my work because I could do it in my head. I can’t help but smile at how frustrated he would get with me “I know you know how to do it, but you have to show your work” he would say).
He encouraged me to skip his class my senior year and move on to more advanced math classes with some of the other teachers. However, my fondness for his teaching skills had me return for algebra two.  Again, he put me right to work helping tutoring students (and me still getting A-‘s because I refused to show my work).  Then one day he approached me and told me that he would really like for me to go to math contest and represent him and my school. I was floored; no one had ever showed such faith in me before. But, again, I let the feelings of a so-called friend (who I later found was jealous) determine my actions and I so declined the offer.

Later, after the math competition, after I had finished a tutoring session with one of his students, he asked me why I hadn’t gone to math contest.  I revealed to him the anger I received from my ‘friend’ when she heard the news of the offer.  He sat me down and explained to me (which, as high school teenagers, is hard to realize) that I was made for bigger and better things than that small little town.  That I was smart and I would go far in life; but only if I stopped worrying about making others happy and instead focusing on my own happiness.
It has been 15 years this may since I walked across that stage and got my high school diploma, and to this day I remember his words. I went on to go to college and every one of my math professors would say “You must have had a really good math teacher in high school to know what you do.” And I would tell every one of them, “Yes, I most definitely did.”

I went on to build my own company, which I use my math skills every day to budget, and do the taxes for.  Skills I never would have possessed without the knowledge that Mr. Bertoldie instilled in me.  My biggest regret is that I didn’t tell him, and now I will never have the opportunity to do so. 
My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Bertoldie’s family. And if, by chance, God allows those that have gone to be with Him the opportunity to hear those thoughts and prayers, I would say this, “Thank you, Mr. Bertoldie, for having faith in me when I did not.  Your knowledge and kindness will be forever carried in my heart, and the hearts of your many students.”


  1. Teachers are much like missionaries in that the calling to serve and reach others is their passion and what fuels them. It is what helps them get up each morning, sees them through the victories but more often gives them a reason to continue enduring through the storms of struggle, heartache and often times feelings of defeat. I know you feel bad about not telling him but I am willing to bet that he know how you felt. He saw how you went on to success or at least heart about it because I went to a small school in an even smaller town and my mentor knew. It has been 9 years now she has passed away from cancer but a week before she passed I sat by her bedside. She made me promise to never give up on succeeding on my dreams on using my abilities to sing and touch people. She never gave up believing on me even when I never told hoer much much she meant to me. I think your teacher knew that you cared because for one thing you continued to listen to him and to strive to use your abilities to be a stronger better person. I think that is why he reminded you that you were made for things much bigger that that small town. He was in his own way telling you not to give up. He knows how you feel and what would be an even better testimony is to continue to touch other people in your life that come across your path in the years to come. You will not only leave a mark of yourself but you will leave a mark of your teacher on that persons life. Love you my friend and I know your teacher sees you in heaven and is so proud of the woman you have become.

    1. Thank you, Nancy. I do hope you are right. Either way, he is in a far better and grander place. :)