Mr. Seabolt was one of us

Published 12:07 am Thursday, November 29, 2018

By Michael Fisher

Special to the Salisbury Post

Sixth grade was a magical year. It was the year I was bold enough to steal away from school when the bus dropped us off — to the gas station up the street where I’d buy candy to sell to the other kids during recess. (Sorry, Mom!) It was the year I fell in love with a swan.

It was also the year that I had the great fortune of having Mr. Ron Seabolt as my sixth-grade teacher. While there were many fantastic teachers at Aycock Elementary School, Mr. Seabolt was one of us. He was a teacher, for sure, but he was also a friend, a confidante, an idea-generator, and a “yes” guy. He was a master of engagement and all the kids adored him.

Every day after lunch — every single day — Mr. Seabolt read to us for 15-20 minutes. One of the books he read to us was “The Trumpet of the Swan,” by E.B. White. It resonated deeply with me and I was immediately lost in the story. It’s a book that’s stuck with me these many years later. I’ve probably read that book 25 times in the last 35 years, and I’m as immersed in the story now as I was back in the sixth grade.

We put on plays, went on field trips, watched Sesame Street every now and then (SH…APE…SHAPE, da da deh da da) and ate popsicles on the steps of the auditorium on the days when it was too hot to think.

After college, I came back to Aycock Elementary to begin my teaching career. It was so strange to now be colleagues with people that used to be my teachers. They remembered every single thing I ever did, whether it was something I was in trouble for or something they celebrated with me. Mr. Seabolt remembered all the good times, but he also remembered when I “accidentally” put someone else’s stuff in my cubby (which I fixed). He remembered when I had a miraculous recovery the day I brought crutches to school. He remembered the day he confronted me about my entrepreneurial schemes and how he shut down my gas station to recess candy pipeline. He didn’t tell my parents these things.

When I moved to Kannapolis Middle School to teach sixth grade myself, I modeled my teaching style after Mr. Seabolt and the kind of teacher he was. And — I read “The Trumpet of the Swan” each year I taught middle school. I wanted the kids to know Sam Beaver and Louis the Swan. I wanted them to be inspired by how Sam documented his observations and how Louis learned to play the trumpet in spite of his inability to honk. I always told the students why I liked the novel so much. All of them knew who my sixth-grade teacher was.

It is with great sorrow that I say goodbye to Mr. Seabolt — phenomenal teacher, phenomenal actor, phenomenal human. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him, especially this former student.

“Tonight I heard Louis’s horn. My father heard it, too. The wind was right, and I could hear the notes of taps, just as darkness fell. There is nothing in all the world I like better than the trumpet of the swan.”

— E.B. White, “The Trumpet of the Swan”

Michael Fisher, now a full-time author, educational consultant and instructional coach, lives near Buffalo, N.Y.