My Dad’s Teaching Legacy

The following was written for a framed plaque I presented at La Fiesta School on my 40th birthday, to a small group of family and the school principal. Before that, the auditorium that bore his name had no personal connection for the students that used it. Sadly, due to budget cuts, the school was closed last year, but I’m told that the Michael J. Begley Auditorium is still used for other purposes. (I wish I had a photo to show you, but the pictures I do have are not digital, I haven’t yet figured out how to scan them. As it is, the photo I am posting is an iphone photo of a photo!). Dad, here’s to you and all the hardworking teachers and dads among us. Michael James Begley, Sr.21 February 1925 – 5 September 1974

Mr. Begley was one of six children born into an Irish Catholic family in Omaha, Nebraska during the Great Depression. He served as an infantryman in WWII, married and migrated to California in 1946. He, with his wife Betty, adopted three children while working and pursuing his education. He received his Bachelor’s Degree (Social Sciences/English) and his Elementary and Secondary Teaching Credentials from the University of San Francisco. He moved  to Sonoma County in the 1960’s where he taught at Bayside School in Sebastopol, St. Vincent’s High School in Petaluma where his eldest son also attended, and John Reed School in Rohnert Park . During this time, Betty gave birth to their fourth child who later attended John Reed School at the same time that her dad taught there.

Mr. Begley was dedicated to his profession, colleagues and students alike. He was president of the Cotati District Chapter of the California Teachers’ Association where he was an advocate for teachers’ rights. He was well-loved and respected by his students who called him “a good teacher, a good human being”. He was a man of faith and conviction, known for his intelligence, sense of humor, positive attitude, and enthusiasm for organizing group activities, especially sports. He encouraged everyone to learn, participate and have fun. He had a sensitive and compassionate nature, coupled with a sense of discipline, personal and social responsibility.

Mr. Begley was a 6th grade teacher at John Reed School when he was diagnosed with cancer, had to go on leave, and subsequently died 10 months later at the age of 49. His fellow teachers donated their vacation days to him so that he could remain on the payroll, plus continue to receive medical assistance for his cancer treatment, thus completing his year’s term. After his death his students took it upon themselves to gather over 1,100 signatures from citizens in the community, door-to-door, in order to petition the School Board to rename the newly planned La Fiesta Elementary School after him. Their request was denied due to school district policy at the time, but they were offered the chance to have the multi-purpose auditorium named in his honor, which they accepted. When asked why they felt compelled to expend all the time and effort to pay special tribute to their former teacher, their response was, “He felt his students were important and we knew it.” And, “He always told us that if you believe in something, stand up for your belief. If you feel strongly about something, well, do something about it! And we have!!!”

So, from the family of Michael J. Begley, Sr. who miss him so much, we are proud of his life and legacy. We appreciate the support of all his colleagues and students, whom he also referred to as his friends. May this dedication serve as a reminder to be the best that we can be, to truly serve the people around us and, last but not least, to value and respect the teachers who are so instrumental in shaping our lives.

Maggie Begley – 5 September 2005

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10 Responses to My Dad’s Teaching Legacy

  1. contoveros says:

    Wow!

    Just got caught up with my reading and, boy, this just knocked me over. What a tribute. What a legacy. I felt I was just introduced to a giant among men. And I salute him and you!

    michael j

    Like

    • michael j
      I so appreciate you and your feedback! I like to have male energy offered to me in supportive and constructive ways…not having my Dad around and all…Though I’m not so sure he’d be happy that I’m not “Catholic” anymore, that I got divorced, and am not a mother.

      Like all of us, he had his challenges based on his personal history. Once I became more conscious, I did have to unlearn some of the things that he unconsciously passed along to me, and I mean absolutely NO disrespect by that. It’s what we all have to do when we enter into our own authentic personhood; evaluating what to keep, what to leave behind and what to make all our own.

      My Dad was indeed an ethusiastic, humorous, intelligent, committed, gentle giant who I love to pieces. And I hope wherever he is that he is as proud of me as I am of him.

      maggie b

      Like

  2. Also, it’s cool to note that as an adult, when I looked at the list that was gathered by the students, I knew several of the names of people on there who I met in subsequent years. Though they didn’t remember signing those many years earlier, a few of them were at my wedding. Seven degrees of separation/synchronicity.

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  3. You a “recovering” Catholic too, huh?

    We all must find our true selves, our true voices along paths others never tread for fear, lack of wear, or maybe a superstitious believe it might do them spiritual harm.

    You go girl. You’re finding more about yourself each day with each new search along your journey and humanity will be better off for it.

    Well, at least those who take the time to get to know you will be better off. Like me.

    michael j

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    • Ditto! We deep-reading, “recovering” Catholic HSPs need to stick together!
      Life is all about time and attention, with the right intention :o)

      ps I do still have fond associations with the church and all it has provided for me. Growing up, my involvement there was a lifesaver for both my mom and I.

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  4. Another reflection on my father, especially in regard to my post above. He was also a “rebel”. After high school he entered the seminary as his mother wished. He left when it was determined that it just wasn’t the place for him. His mother was so upset that he was asked to leave home. He got a job as a dishwasher on the railroad line from Nebraska to Calfornia, where he first saw the “promised land” (lucky for me). He was then drafted into the army, served and upon his return met my mother, a German Protestant. They were married by a Methodist minister 6 months later, with none of his family in attendance. They then fled by train to SF. As far as I know, he was the first in his family line to graduate college. He also became active in the civil rights movement. I’d like to think that with each generation’s efforts, we can evolve our family and society to a better place. Thanks Dad for taking the steps you did to bring me here along with you!

    Like

  5. contoveros says:

    Rebel with a Cause . . .I like that.

    michael j

    Like

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