Thursday, April 7, 2011

Letter to Mr. Rupp

Jeff Rupp, beloved teacher at Fullerton High School, and his daughter Sarah

Dear Mr. Rupp,

The day I met you was the first day of high school. I walked into your class with a t-shirt that said, “supermodels suck,” and you were rocking a ponytail and had your Harley parked next to your desk. We liked each other immediately. You gave me a lot of advice over the next four years, like how I should get my ass to Berkeley where I belonged. I’m still there, by the way. I wish you were still around too.

I remember your full-sleeve tattoos, which the school made you hide even in the blazing heat of summer. They were always there under your blue denim shirt and leather vest combo, and you were more than happy to tell us the story of each one, like constellations etched in ink instead of stars.

I remember your laugh, which would start with a rough guffaw and end with a hacking smoker’s cough that would make even the most rebellious teenager swear to lay off the cigarettes. You always said you were going to quit, but I don’t know if you ever did.

I remember the way you didn’t lower your standards, yet still refused to give up on us (whether that meant holding an extra AP study session on the weekend or throwing the occasional student in that broom closet for “acting up” in class). You were tough on us, and we were tough on you. Love is tough sometimes.

The last time I wrote you a letter, it was 2005 – four years after I graduated. I had just become a teacher, like you, and it had given me a new appreciation for the work you did with countless high school students over the years. You wrote me back and told me that your heart sang to hear from me. That’s the kind of teacher you were – the kind whose heart sang for his students.

It’s hard to say what I’ll miss the most about you. There are simply too many memories to sort through from those four years, and it hurts to think you’ll never read this letter. I want to believe that you knew how much you meant to your family, students, your community, and your colleagues, but that would be a lot of realization to handle, even for you.

You changed the lives of everyone around you. Even now, you are reminding me to cherish life it its brevity and beauty, and to tell the people I love how much they mean to me before it is too late.

Dear teacher, dear mentor, and dear friend — you will very soon be gone, but you will never be forgotten.

To infinity and beyond,


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