Thursday, March 17, 2011

Heroes - Ron Firmage

Pin It
There are people who drift in and out of our lives as the years trudge relentlessly onward; some of these individuals flash for a brief moment of time, like a star blazing through the atmosphere, while others remain constant like the rising and setting of the sun, lighting the way for those in the world around them. These are the people who inspire us to be better; they lift us when they discover we’re in low moments, they give to others in want, they look for what needs to be done and simply do it – oftentimes without waiting to be asked.

Teacher Ron Firmage is one of these individuals.

I first met Ron eleven years ago – back when I was just a budding teacher myself – straight from the chute at BYU, with a head full of dreams and an overwhelming enthusiasm that teaching always seems to inspire.

In just a day or two at my new assignment at Sunset View Elementary School, I became acquainted with Mr. Firmage. How could I not? Ron was one of the friendliest teachers I’d ever met...and I’d met quite a few. Mr. Firmage had a way of making you feel at ease, and there was something about him that made you believe that he had nothing better or more important in the entire world to do than to spend time with you.

It was no wonder to me why his students adored him. I can’t recall how many times I’d hear the younger kids at the school say, “When I’m in the 6th grade, I’m going to be in Mr. Firmage’s class.” In his own little corner of the world, Mr. Firmage was somewhat of a living legend. He was outside nearly every recess with the kids, throwing the football and teaching them about sportsmanship and service to others; yet he never did this with lectures or sermons - this was because he taught by how he lived – his actions speaking far louder than his words ever could.

It would be inadequate to say that his students merely loved him.

Partway through my first year, Ron became my confidant. He was my mentor when times were tough. He was my cheerleader, coach, counselor, motivational speaker, and my friend all wrapped up in one. He was always ready and willing to help with a student, share ideas that had worked in his classroom, and give time to me – or to anyone else - whenever needed.

One of the most amazing of Mr. Firmage’s accomplishments as a teacher was an outdoor education program he’d been running for nearly 12 years. You see Ron was one of those pioneering teachers who believed that teaching shouldn’t only take place in the confines of a classroom’s four walls, or in the realms of textbooks and standardized tests. Mr. Firmage believed in educating not only the ‘academic’ part of his students, but the whole child. In Mr. Firmage’s own words:

“The day I decided to be an educator I made it my personal goal to never make education a miserable experience for my students, like it was so many times for me…[but] how was I going to teach my kids to care for their environment if I couldn’t take them there? How could I get my kids to read about setting goals and meeting challenges if we didn’t go out into the world and try some mental and physical challenges ourselves? This is the way I believe education should be taught. My goal day in day out is to hear my students say that they love coming to school.”

Despite the obstacles that stood in his path, Mr. Firmage – along with the help of administrator, Cindy Wright – began the Expedition Red Rock program. A program he’d lead every year in the spring to Goblin Valley State Park in southern Utah. Each year, 50 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students would take part in this four-day trip where they were taught about the flora and fauna of the area, they researched the native peoples and history of the region, and they learned to work together as a team…all in the classroom of their own backyard. And when the excursion was complete and these motley crews would pile off of the school bus, they’d have a glow in their eyes that hadn’t been there four days before, and would have a love of places they’d never before known existed.



All because of Ron Firmage.



Mr. Firmage headed up this program until he – once again – looked and saw a need, but this time it wasn’t only for students. In order to help teachers in the state of Utah, he took a position at Bonneville UniServ to make a difference for the teachers of the students he loved so much.

Why is Ron Firmage a hero to me? I guess you could say this is mostly because he is the type of person I’m trying to become more like. Why is Ron Firmage a hero to so many people around him? You know, there are a thousand different answers to that question, and to each person who knows him, Ron Firmage is a hero for a completely different reason, a hero nonetheless…

26 comments:

Cherie said...

This really has ended my day on such a happy note. What a wonderful person Ron is! In the world today you don't find many people anymore who are so giving and care about others so much.
I can really see why he is your hero.

Oilfield Trash said...

What a great way to end the day with such a great story like this. The world could use more people like him.

Cheeseboy said...

Awesome. Inspiring. Best post of the month.

I hope Ron reads this. I love that you wrote this while he still can. I need to thank my teaching mentors publicly more often.

Sand Castles and Snow Forts said...

Beautiful! We all need to hear more of the real heroes that impart into the lives of others!

Bronson Family said...

This was such a fun post to read. Red Rock was started after my days as a student at SSV, but I wish I would have been able to go. I also didn't have the privilege of having Mr. Firmage as a teacher (I was blessed with one of my heroes for my 6th grade teacher, Miss Luke) but I did get to know him and he really is a great guy. He once challenged me that I could not beat Mrs. Peterson (the computer teacher) in a typing contest. I proved him wrong and he had to buy me lunch. I was saddened to learn that he was no longer teaching, but I'm sure he is doing many wonderful things with Bonneville UniServ. Thanks again for the fun post!
-Kristin

Linn said...

What an amazing tribute to an equally amazing person. Anyone who chooses to spend their time helping children care more about their education and as a result, care more about themselves and those around them, is a hero in my book.

diane rene said...

amazing post! I hope that every child (and even teacher) can find someone who makes school and enjoyable experience.

tammy said...

I love to see teachers like this. We need more of them. I know two people who could stand to take a lesson from him, and you.

Yancy said...

Like you, I know firsthand: Ron is awesome.

Dallas and Kirsten said...

Once again, I may have started to tear up a bit while reading this post...maybe I'm a little too emotional lately! I can't even begin to tell you how Ron saved Ashlee and I are first year teaching at SSV. He literally became one of the best father figures I've ever had, which you know says a lot because you know how friggin' awesome my dad is! I miss those years, doing Red Rock and feeling like I was a part of something magical in the education world.

wendy said...

wow, what a wonderful tribute to your friend and mentor.
There are just some people in this world who really stand out I think....who really "get it" and make it happen.
That 4 day adventure sounds amazing and I can imagine would have a big impact on the kids.

I had a 6th grade teacher I loved too (but mostly because I was boy crazy and he was terribly cute...tee,hee)

and it sound to me like YOU will be an apendage of what Ron does.

Rachel said...

Soooo, are we going this year? Is this an announcement? Are you putting another adventure together? :D

Joan said...

I wanna work with Ron! Wahhh!!!!

Seriously, what a great tribute.

MBGITWWR said...

Great and innovative teachers can be hard to come by. I'm so glad there are people like you and Ron who help form a much happier and healthier youth. Thanks!

P.S. This might put you over the top with your kids. They will love you forever. Check it out. :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm7yAWpX1Mc

Miss Griffiths said...

You know Ron would hate this! But secretly love it - did you send him the link? Great read - almost as good as the read-aloud version from the author. (:

M-Cat said...

What a nice tribute.

We need more educators like him. And you.

Pedaling said...

Don't we all want to make a difference?....way to go for men and women like him who do!

Richard & Natalie said...

What a great tribute to what seems to be the greatest teacher on earth (besides you).
Hurray for people like him who make a difference and people like you who recognize it.
I wish we were doing Red Rock this year even if it was just another crazy abbreviated version like last year, but I understand the allure of the land of the big mouse too.

mama-face said...

Very uplifting. I love his philosophy for making education enjoyable for his students. It seems that a few teachers have a different approach. (I'm sure it's more about 'seeming' than actuality.) It takes a very special person to be a good teacher-and something extra for the truly great ones. You know that.

Connie said...

What a wonderful teacher. Mr. Z, I believe you are following in his footsteps.

Kelly said...

How inspiring. I couldn't help but think as I read this that he reminds me of you...

Karen Peterson said...

Such a wonderful tribute. I wish we could all have someone like this in our lives.

mep said...

I am so thankful for the great teachers I had when I was a student and the wonderful mentors I had when I was a new teacher. Every school needs at least one "Ron"! Inspiring!

Life with Kaishon said...

I love teachers like Mr. Firmage. I am ever so grateful that God made him become the best teacher he could be.

Mr. Hughes said...

It is so nice to hear teachers thanking teachers! What a wonderful tribute to a person who made a difference in your life. I think you will find that you are not far behind him yourself...

Sarah said...

Thanks for sharing such an uplifting and inspiring story, I know a teacher in our area who works so hard to create a fun and hands-on learning environment and I am so impressed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...