In the end, what impact do we have on children?

Apparently a lot.


It’s a complicated story. But one worth telling. Let’s go back almost 10 years. I was teaching a group of gifted learners at Ryan Elementary in Chandler, AZ. It was August or September and I was reading aloudĀ The Gifted Kids Survival Guide. I got to a part that went something like this: “At some point in your life you’ll need advocates for the type of person you are.” I jumped out of my rocking chair, struck a superhero pose and proclaimed, “I am Super CATS Man. Defender of the gifted!” (CATS is Chandler’s Academically Talented Students.)

A few months later, around the holidays I received one of the most heartfelt gifts ever. A cape! But not just any cape. Super CATS Man’s cape. Thanks to Tony Vitritto for listening. Thanks to Wendy Vitritto for listening to Tony. Thanks to Wendy’s mom for her masterpiece. I remember wearing the cape for the rest of the day, maybe even for the rest of the week. Super CATS Man has made many appearances in classrooms and other District events, much to the embarrassment of my own children.

Unfortunately, Super CATS Man has been retired for at least five years. His cape and mask (a recent addition to the uniform) have been hanging in B1 and E1 of Knox Gifted Academy, catching dust on the shoulders. But last Friday was National Superhero Day and thanks to Jennifer Nusbaum, Super CATS Man emerged once again – in full regalia, including tights because superheroes wear tights.

Now here’s where it gets a bit complicated so stay with me. While I was portraying someone defending the rights of the academically gifted, someone else was portraying me. In SeptemberĀ of last year I was diagnosed with prostrate cancer. And thanks to my wife suggesting I go for a full battery of blood work, I am six months cancer-free. One of my students made blue ribbons to show her support of my fight, which turned into a tattoo to honor her.



Now here’s where the story takes an interesting twist, an interesting take on how we define superheroes. Talia walked in on Friday morning. She came up to me and said good morning. I noticed she was wearing the blue ribbon her classmate had made for her, which was odd since I haven’t seen many of the students wearing them for months. Then I noticed she was also wearing a blue ribbon pearler bead necklace another classmate made in October. What happened next blew me away and will always be imprinted on my brain for as long as I live.


Talia was “dressed” as me, her superhero. Blue ribbons and tatted up!


Now I might be her superhero and I hope she’ll have so many more as she grows up. But Talia and her classmates – present, past, and future – will always be my superheroes. It’s because of them that I wake up every morning, and dedicate my life to enhancing my craft and designing interesting and innovative learning experiences.

Thank you, Talia. You are my hero. And you are super.