I am, to be brief, heartbroken. Tonight I learned through a Facebook post that one of my favorite teachers, Brian Wallum, an English instructor and longtime coach at Midway High School, is very sick. He is sick with a disease that shows mercy to no one. I cannot imagine the pain that his family is feeling, because I have seen Mr. Wallum just once over the past year, yet I am heartbroken.
Things like this should not happen to anybody. Things like this should especially never happen to people who dedicate their lives to children, and to teaching them skills, and how to put those skills to good use.
I am not writing this to fill space. I’m not writing because I can’t sleep. I’m writing because, when everything else fails, putting thoughts on paper has always been a special kind of therapy.
I fell in love with writing because of Brian Wallum.
Mr. Wallum was my 9th grade English teacher. We read some great novels in that class. My favorite was S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I was enamored with that book, and amazed with how someone else’s writing could take you to another time and to a life you had never known, yet get you so wrapped up in it. I couldn’t believe it had taken me so long to gain appreciation for others’ writing.
Then, when many of us in the class seemed to be struggling with a first-person point of view assignment, Mr. Wallum said five words that changed writing for me forever. He made it make sense, and he made the process seem like second-nature to me.
“Just write what you feel,” he said.
“That’s it?” I thought. “There has to be more to it than that.”
The words began flowing out of me. It’s like a knack for writing had always been inside of me, but it was finally unlocked when he uttered those five words.
He didn’t know that what he said would leave a lasting impression on me that day. He still doesn’t know because I have never told him. But that’s what is so great about teachers. They change lives every single day without ever even knowing it.
I have been fortunate to never really struggle with any papers during my undergraduate studies as a communication major. I have also been lucky enough to work as a sports writer and sports editor for The Sampson Independent, and now serve as a freelance sports writer for the Dunn Daily Record. Every journalist has a moment when they fell in love with writing. Mine was when I realized that writing was a constant flow of thoughts straight from the brain down through the arm to the pen in your hand, then to paper (now to the keyboard).
Our Senior class song was “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. Our class chose that song mostly due to us hearing it at the end of Mr. Wallum’s class every single Friday. He made school fun, and made writing fun, and I am forever grateful for that. Mr Wallum, if this gets around to you, thank you for inspiring so many of us in so many ways. I know you will do the same and remain strong in your fight. We love you and you are in our prayers.
Don’t Stop Believin’.