|Photograph by YiMay Yang|
My brother and I threw a retirement party for my parents at their house this past weekend, and it was a blast to celebrate with family and friends. We enjoyed Tex-Mex food catered from Abuelo's, watermelon & cucumber water, peach Bellinis, French macarons, homemade carrot cake and key lime pie, and cookies from Savannah Bakery (and more), along with great conversations and laughter. My main prayer for this party was for my parents to feel loved and blessed, and from what they tell me, they were indeed.
Somewhere along the way as I planned the party with my brother, I realized that I would have to give a toast. I kind of panicked because I've never spoken in public. I took a deep breath and decided to act like a writer — write my thoughts down, and read from a piece of paper. There is so much more I could have said, but I hope you'll get the idea: My parents are two of my heroes.
A Toast to Coach Strother and Queen Kitty Ann
Whenever I meet someone who is a teacher or a coach, I instantly think of my parents. To me, they define what these professions are truly about, and how to do them well. I believe this not just because I’m their daughter and I’m biased, but because I experienced their gifts in coaching and teaching firsthand.
At my dad’s suggestion, I tried to play basketball and volleyball in middle school, but I didn’t inherit the athletic genes — I remember scoring a basket for the opposing team in 7th grade. I was slightly better at volleyball, receiving the Most Improved Player award in 8th grade. That ended my athletic career when I decided to participate in drill team in high school. But I’ll never forget my dad’s encouragement to try sports, and him hugging me and saying, “Well done,” even when I helped the other basketball team take the lead. He always wanted me to just try and do my best, and I always knew that he was proud of me no matter what. In the years since high school, many former students and athletes have told me how much they admired Coach Strother for this same encouragement, support, and unconditional love.
I took my mom’s Honors World History class in 10th grade, which was a very creative class that reflected her unique and genius approach to teaching. Among other assignments, we recorded a video of the class dancing to The Bangles’ song “Walk Like an Egyptian” — to enhance our understanding of the historical Egyptian culture, of course. She also helped me with countless school projects and papers, and was a co-drill team director one year. Before or after school, or in between classes, there were always kids in her classroom talking with her, confiding in her, laughing with her, crying with her. It never surprised me how kids were drawn to her like a magnet, and how deeply they loved her. She loved them — all of them — more deeply than they ever knew, and wanted them to learn and grow with every fiber of her zany, fun-loving being.
I also pulled up my knee socks for Principal Strother in high school, but I’ll tell you a little secret: He didn’t really care about those knee socks. He was just doing his job. But today is not about me and my memories. We are here to celebrate the careers of Jim and Julie Strother, whom I have watched love students my entire life — sometimes to the point of exhaustion, and sometimes with such a pure love that I felt as if I had hundreds of siblings along with my awesome brother, Jody. My parents have not only been teachers, and a coach, for 44 years, but they have also been a bodily form of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial love to students across the state of Texas for 44 years. Much more than wanting to teach the subjects of mathematics, history, or athletics, their deepest desire has always been to teach students about the unfailing love of Christ, to cultivate a passion for His word, and to teach them to live their lives guided by faith in Jesus. My parents may be done with the classroom and the football field, but they will never be done with teaching kids about Jesus and His love. I can promise you that.
I raise my glass to you, Mom and Dad. I’m so proud of you, and I love you. Cheers to you both!