A special message from Chancellor Frank T. Brogan
Thirty-five years ago I had the best day of my professional career. I was 23 years old, naive and nervous. I was wearing the sharpest suit and tie the sale rack had to offer and had shined my brown leather shoes the night before. It was my very first day as a fifth-grade teacher at Port Salerno Elementary in Martin County.
Watching my students file into the portable classroom, I felt the heavy responsibility of the coming 180 days. Not only would I be expected to teach these boys and girls reading, writing, arithmetic, and handwriting, but I would—inadvertently or not—help to shape their budding identities.
By the end of the day, I knew that I had found my life’s calling.
For me, teaching was a way to take everything I’d been lucky enough to learn and give it back—or, rather, pay it forward. It was about looking into the eyes of those boys and girls and seeing the future. It was about making a difference. That was true on the tough days, and that was true on the great days. Being a teacher was what got me out of bed every morning and what I thought about before falling asleep at night. Being a teacher defined me.
In the years that followed, I had quite a few more jobs, and met quite a few more people. In a somewhat Forrest-Gump-ian series of opportunities, those jobs took me from Martin County to Tallahassee and across the world. Somehow, this kid who grew up in a rough neighborhood in Cincinnati was ultimately chosen to serve as superintendent of Martin County Schools, then Commissioner of Education, then Lieutenant Governor, then President of Florida Atlantic University, and, finally, Chancellor of the State University System.
Despite whatever my business card said, every morning when I looked in the mirror, it was the same as that first day at Port Salerno: You’re a teacher. Make a difference
At the end of the day, however, it is you who taught me: about making the world a better place through education, about holding ourselves to high standards, about fighting for what is right, about loss and love and friendship.
Thank you, Florida, for adopting me 35 years ago. Thank you for giving me a more rewarding career than I could have ever imagined and a place I will always call home.