Commentary: A farewell to Mr. Cartan
Special to The Union
As the sun reflects on beautiful, blue Lake Tahoe, all I see is pure contentment — smiles, bathing suits, kites, soccer balls and about 70 seniors basking on the beach, enjoying their final days of glory.
There is a reason we are all here, a common factor that has made this day and many others possible: Michael Cartan. Mr. Cartan is well-loved throughout this community, but if there is any group of people that truly appreciates Mr. Cartan with their whole heart, it is his English 4AP class.
With respect to his ability as an English teacher, Mr. Cartan has taken us through a world of novels. We fly-fished in “A River Runs Through It,” sat on the streets of Paris in “The Sun Also Rises,” stood on the scaffold with Hester Prynne in “The Scarlet Letter” and enjoyed a cup of tea with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice.”
Mr. Cartan doesn’t just teach us about a book, he makes us read, breathe and sleep the essence of the book. He has such a unique and spectacular way of teaching; there’s simply no way to describe it.
I think we can all agree, however, that Mr. Cartan is more than just a literature teacher. He teaches us about life, and, more importantly, how to live in the best way possible.
The amount of optimism and support Mr. Cartan exudes on a daily basis is unbelievable, developing his own meaningful relationship with each student. Although he is a teacher, he is there for us in so many ways. His door is always open, and no matter the time or place, he is willing to talk about anything you desire.
Mr. Cartan has created an environment where thoughts, ideas and imagination roam free. When you are in his room, no one is judging you. Everyone values and listens to your opinions, whether or not they agree.
After 38 years of instruction, this beloved teacher has made the decision to retire, and though we support him in this new chapter of his life, I know we will all miss him so much. However, the admiration isn’t a one-way street.
“I’ll miss the kids; I miss them now and I haven’t even left yet,” said Mr. Cartan when asked what he will miss most about teaching.
“I’ll miss the learning experience that goes both ways, the intellectual give and take of classroom discussions. I’ll miss their courage, integrity and selflessness, and the lessons which they teach me about life … each and every day. I feel that I am as much a student as I am a teacher.”
As someone who has been a teacher at Nevada Union for almost 30 years, I asked him about changes that have occurred at the school during his teaching career and how he felt about them.
“This is a difficult question because for me, my job has always been about interacting with the students in my classroom — what happens outside of my classroom essentially doesn’t affect me. I try and stay conscientious of state curriculum and current ideas in education, but what is most important is what happens when we shut the door and begin thinking, discussing, and interacting together as a class. That’s what I call ‘learning’.
“In terms of the current state of education, the education process is always at a disadvantage unless society values it highly. Until we realize that education is about teaching students how to think independently, openly and tolerantly of others, we cannot move forward as a society.”
There is no possible way to express the amount of gratitude we as students have toward this man.
When we look back on our high-school careers, I know for a fact that the memories of Mr. Cartan’s English class will be something we all look back on fondly.
“On a final note, I just want to say that this has been the greatest job in the world. I feel like my life has been moved and influenced by the students with whom I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to teach. The really good part, however, is that we don’t end here. My relationships with students will continue to thrive even if I am retiring. I love staying in contact with them and having the ability to watch them grow up and live their lives,” said Mr. Cartan.
“I would also like to thank my family and especially my wife, Marianne. It’s sometimes hard to be a teacher. A lot goes into this profession, and sometimes this comes to the detriment of your family, but they have understood and supported me for close to 40 years.
“For a final quote, I want to add…” chuckling as he runs across the room to pick up that very familiar blue copy of “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
And in the wise words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, we will beat on. These next two weeks are the last days we will have the pleasure of being students of Mr. Cartan.
I know we will each cherish them as we bid farewell to him.
Thank you for all you have done, Mr. Cartan; you will be greatly and deeply missed.
Maya Anderman was an intern at The Union for her senior project. She is set to graduate from Nevada Union High School Saturday.
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