From Andy Thomason, a senior at Myers Park High School:
CMS is losing some of its best. The school system is being forced to cut much of its staff due to bleak economic realities. It was no surprise, then, when the news came last week that the distinguished career of Mr. Dave Layton will end with the school year. Mr. Layton has been a history teacher at Myers Park High School for 38 years, but he currently teaches part-time as a retiree. He was one of the first layoffs made by CMS because he receives both a pension and a salary, making his termination good for the budget. I realize that many teachers are in the same boat as Mr. Layton, but I have had a unique experience with him, so I will speak to that.
Mr. Layton has an almost mythical reputation on campus, respected by his fellow teachers, feared by students who will one day be in his class, and loved by the seniors of IB 20th Century History, the only course he teaches these days.
I am one of those seniors, so I can attest to the man's talent. I remember how intimidated I was the first day I set foot in his class, scared out of my wits by the lengthy homework assignments – always notes straight from a college-level textbook, sometimes upward of 30 pages – as well as his rough North Carolina drawl, a characteristic that I soon came to love. Little did I know then that, as the year progressed, history would truly come alive for me.
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The class has been the most rewarding of my high school career, due to the genius of Mr. Layton. So much of his influence, though, goes beyond knowledge (which is stunning, don't get me wrong). He has a warm personality and a wicked sense of humor that makes the learning experience truly enjoyable. I'll never forget the time he offered me a fist pound after a personal accomplishment, or the time he asked me (regarding my brightly colored sneakers), “Do those things run on batteries?”
And yet the most valuable thing about Mr. Layton's class is the rapport he develops with all his students. On every essay he returns he writes a two- or three-sentence analysis that captures the essence of what is right and wrong about the effort. I received more ‘C's' in his class than I ever have because he sees through the empty rhetoric of the average student, thus forcing me to harness complex ideas. This made the “Congratulations!” that came with every ‘A' paper even more rewarding.
I admit that I can't fully understand the economic difficulties that CMS faces. However, the fact that CMS is allowing teachers like Mr. Layton to be let go represents a fundamental flaw in the process. Experienced teachers are worth so much more than their salaries suggest; they have a proven knack for inspiring students. Losing these teachers means losing not just a set of skills, but the ability to inspire that has defined their storied careers.