Teacher Dies in his Call of Duty and Service

Aug 3, 2015 by

Patrick Wanninkh

Another teacher has died in the line of duty. Not as conventionally defined with the dramatic imagery of heroism. But he was doing his job by following his star. Pushing to heal the world one human microcosm at a time Touching every student with his redemptive care.

Never off the clock. No break even for summer vacation, that stretch of days when public education’s ignorant and jealous detractors feel that teachers do nothing but lounge around on taxpayer’s expense.

Patrick Wanninkhof, staff member at Fordham High School for the Arts, was cycling on a more than three-thousand mile cross-country trek to raise money for affordable housing for indigent people like some of his students. He had completed over a couple thousand miles when he was killed by a car driven by a multi-tasker toying with her hand-held device.

A senseless death, but one from which some meaningful reparation can be recovered if we all remember why Patrick was on his bike that day. That awareness will consummate his ride and enshrine the road.

Patrick was a teacher in the deepest spiritual way that goes far beyond academic preparation and approval ratings and test scores. He was an amalgam of many virtues. Teaching as he lived it is competitive with other professions, not in salary or the appreciation it has earned but rarely gets.

But it is competitive among the ranks of professions that call for heroism as their essence. It’s right up there with trauma physicians, hostage-negotiating teams, firefighters and soldiers who volunteer to detonate unexploded bombs.

The form and conception of the heroism is different, but the glory is no less pure and appropriately credited. It may lack the glamor of an action-hero screenplay, but that’s o.k.  Successfully interceding in the lives of students who need to be steered off a self-destructive path is sensational compensation.

I have seen student suicides thwarted by teachers and guidance counselors. And countless smaller rescues on a daily basis that often don’t find their way into official reports.

Patrick Wanninkhof was a martyr to destiny.  An arbitrary ludicrous chance accident. We must honor him for the heroism implicit in being a model teacher. We must take up his journey, fueled by the directing signal of his spirit, until his goal is achieved, not just in effect but in totality. His soul can rest because ours will not tarry until his noble task is done.

Ron Isaac

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1 Comment

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    Rebecca Smith

    Thanks for sharing this story. May Patrick’s new journey be awesome, and may his loved ones be comforted. I have no doubt that he (along with many other dedicated teachers who have crossed the great River) will continue helping humanity (including the dear ones who mourn for him).

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