[dropcap]C[/dropcap]ondolences from journalists, cancer survivors, teachers, and former students showered social media when news of the death of cherished teacher, David Menasche, was announced by his family Nov. 20. He was 41 when he died after an eight-year battle with brain cancer.
His loss was felt far beyond the local community.
Cancer directly affects millions of people each year and an estimated one-third of Americans have or know a friend or relative with cancer. As a former student, I feel compelled to say that we all have lost a great educator.
Mr. Menasche taught my tenth grade English class at a then brand-new Coral Reef Magnet High School which opened its doors the previous year. He relished the opportunity to engage young minds and enthused a passion for words, ideas and life that was contagious.
His classroom buzzed as he sat cross-legged, wearing large-soled, leather punk boots while students hovered around his desk, vying for attention. His classroom was organized into two halves of student desks, split down the middle and turned to face each other so that he might pace down a central aisle between the two, lecturing to a captivated audience.
He inspired his class with personal adventure stories, relating tales of the many artists, writers, and musicians who started from obscurity but chose a larger dream. He preached a mantra of individualism, enthusiastically encouraging self-expression. In the current climate of increasing attention paid to the problem of school bullies, Menasche championed all disenfranchised youth. His approach to teaching invigorated impressionable teens with the power of their own ideas.
His unconventional approach made an obvious impact in his wake. He continued teaching, even after the diagnosis. Once he could no longer attend the classroom, he fought valiantly against his cancer, touring the United States to visit many former students and colleagues who were positively influenced by his teaching.
The trip became the basis for his book, The Priority List: A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lessons, a beacon of hope to those fighting cancer as well as the students, teachers and writers who knew him directly or indirectly through those he encouraged.
To ensure his story continues, Warner Bros. purchased the movie rights to the book and Steve Carell will play Menasche in the film adaptation. Among those posting their sympathies was actor and producer Carell.
R.I.P. David Menasche. Beloved teacher. A man who changed lives.
— Steve Carell (@SteveCarell) November 20, 2014
“You never know how tough you are, until you have to be,” one of his lasting lessons, continued to triumph in photos and quotes posted in support of the beloved educator following his announced diagnosis.
A selfless instructor and role-model, Mr. Menasche will live on in the hearts and minds of a generation of writers and thinkers he helped to cultivate. He stands out among the other exceptional educators at Coral Reef Magnet High School as a remarkably caring influence.