Earlier this month I had a close friend tell me that he divides people into two categories. There are people who skim across the surface of life - - experiencing and doing things that make their own lives better. Then there are people who dive into the lives of others, and who dedicate their lives to making the experiences and lives of other people better. These are the people who leave a legacy, the people who are talked about years after they are out of your lives or after they pass, people like my great friend Dennis Sulfsted.
Dennis Sulfsted grew up in Reading, Ohio. Dennis partially stepped away from Reading to attend the University of Cincinnati. He soon returned to serve the community in 1974 as a teacher at Reading Schools and never left. During his tenure, he won countless awards for excelling with every position he held with our district. As an English teacher and Newspaper advisor, he won national awards. As a wrestling coach, he won numerous championships and coach of the year awards. As our technology director, he won leadership awards.
I chose not to write a full-page summary of his awards, because adult recognition is not that important to him. I believe the moments that matter the most to him are memories of students in the midst of a lesson, who he has at the edge of their seats. Memories of students engaged in learning during a carefully crafted lesson that drive deep into the soul of a child, far beyond the context of a book.
Dennis is a friend I turn to as a moral compass. He serves as my guide to help me navigate through the many shades of grey in education. Regardless of the situation his priorities are clear and consistent. He puts the needs of kids first. He never lies - - ever. And he prioritizes helping teachers’ help kids through technology.
Dennis transitioned from the classroom to our full-time technology director twelve years ago. Regardless of whether he was excelling as a classroom teacher, or through classroom teachers, he spent his career excelling for kids. I experienced this first-hand. I am every technology director’s worst nightmare. I am always pushing the envelope, and often doing so at the last minute. Dennis was always there for me. He often dropped what he was doing to help me because he knew my students would benefit.
To begin the year, the computer lab Dennis built was dedicated to him. The computer lab is now known as the “Sulfsted Computer Lab”. So in the years ahead, teachers and alumni will walk past his lab and remember him, and everything he did for teachers and kids.
I can’t say I will miss Dennis as a friend, because I will not lose touch with him. What I can say is thank you. Thank you for making me a better teacher. Thank you for your advice, your support, and your passion. Most of all, thank you for leaving a legacy.