I first heard about the Mark Twain motto almost 17 years ago.
Emma’s best friend, Katie, who grew up across the street from us, was the one who told me about the motto.
Well, Katie didn’t actually tell me about the motto, she told our now 20-year-old daughter, Emma, about the motto.
It was, I think, a Friday evening. Katie had been in kindergarten at Mark Twain Elementary School for about a week, and since Emma was a year younger, Katie wanted to give her the lowdown on kindergarten life.
“You have to learn the motto,” Katie told Emma. “You also have to learn the Mark Twain song.”
Katie told Emma how to say the motto and sang her the Mark Twain song. A year later, Emma would tell my wife and me about the motto and sing us the Mark Twain song.
My dad was in the military, so we moved a lot when I was a kid. I attended at least eight schools. None of those schools, to my knowledge, had either a school motto or a song. But none of those schools had a principal quite like Laurel Rosenthal.
I don’t want to say that Laurel has been at Mark Twain Elementary School in Carthage for a long time, but she was the one who asked Mark Twain if she could name the school after him.
OK, that might not be true.
Laurel has been at Mark Twain for 51 years. She spent 21 years as a kindergarten teacher — my wife was one of her students — and the last 30 years as principal.
I think that’s something.
Whenever someone asks Laurel if she ever thinks about retiring, she always says the day she doesn’t look forward to going to work is the day she’ll retire.
I think that’s also something.
Mark Twain is part of the foundation on which Emma’s life has been built. The things Emma learned at Mark Twain are the same things that guide her today, things such as respect for others, respect for yourself, tolerance, manners and an overall desire to treat others the way you would want to be treated.
It’s the Mark Twain way, and it was created by Laurel Rosenthal.
Laurel will tell you that what she does isn’t all that unusual. Laurel will tell you that thousands of educators who came before her did the same thing. Laurel will tell you that thousands of educators now are doing the same thing that she is doing. And Laurel will tell you that thousands of educators who come after her will do the same thing.
And she is right. But that doesn’t make what Laurel does any less special or any less important.
On Monday, Laurel, along with five other longtime educators, received the Missouri Cooperative Conference for School Administrator’s 2018 Pioneer in Education Award at Fort Osage, Missouri.
It was a pretty big deal. My wife, Emma and I were fortunate to be at the ceremony along with Laurel’s sons, Brian and Scott; her grandson, Grant; Mark Baker, superintendent of the Carthage School District; and assistant superintendent Kandy Frazier.
At a dinner on Sunday night, I told Laurel about that kindergarten conversation between Katie and Emma all those years ago, and Laurel laughed.
What I didn’t tell Laurel how big a role Mark Twain played and still plays in our family. I didn’t tell Laurel how grateful I was for everything she did for Emma and for how she helped her to become the person that she is now.
I knew that if I told Laurel that, she would deflect it away from herself. But she can’t do that in this column.
So thank you, Laurel. You will always be a part of our family.
By the way, here’s the Mark Twain motto:
“Today at Mark Twain Elementary School,
I will do my best to be my best.
I will listen and follow directions.
I will respect the rights of others.
I can learn.
I will learn.
I will have a good day,
as I work towards high school graduation,
and becoming a lifelong learner.”