Season 3, Episode 34 of The Twilight Zone (1961) “Changing of the Guard”
(from Paramount + synopsis): This episode features an elderly private school teacher as he wonders if his life has meant anything as he contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve and is reminded by former students that he has, indeed, made an effect on the lives of his students over the years.
A teacher has been asked to retire by the trustees; he had been teaching for over 50 years, having recently taught the grandson of a former student.
Despondent at the loss of his usefulness, even though he would be receiving “half salary” in his retirement, he is contemplating ending his life.
Before the deed can be executed, the school bell starts ringing in the middle of the night and the teacher enters his empty classroom. In true Twilight Zone style, before his eyes former students are sitting at their desks.
Students who died as heroes during World War I, during the attack on Pearl Harbor, winners of the Medal of Honor, a former student who died of radiation while researching the cure for cancer, and several others.
Each of those students welcomed the wide-eyed teacher with examples of how the teacher’s efforts, classes, and lessons were with them during their lives after graduation. Exclamations of “I kept remembering something you told me”, and “I never forgot that, professor”, “You taught me courage”, “You were at my elbow, professor”, “You taught me about loyalty, ethics, honesty”, and on and on.
Those students were forever grateful and wanted to thank him, even in death.
Yes, it’s just a TV show set in the early 1960’s; but during Lutheran Schools Week, I have no doubt that these teacher’s words ring true for many of our 350 Lutheran educators yesterday, today, and tomorrow: “I have taught all I can teach, and I have left my mark. I helped others to win victories. I had a full life, a rich life.” He wouldn’t have it any other way.
And neither would his students.
My 3rd grade teacher had a lasting effect on me; how about you?