“I’m Not There Anymore”

It can be surprising – even unsettling – when you bump into someone who has been a pillar of an organization for decades and they mention that “I’m not there anymore.

Pre-School Graduation!!!

That was the case when I bumped into Todd Wanerman at La Rondalla.

Todd was one of my son Traylor’s teachers at The Little School, a person so good and gifted at his craft that he was a benchmark for others in his profession.

The comparison – “she/ he’s the Todd Wanerman of XYZ school” – was the ultimate compliment you could give an educator if you were a Little School alumni family.

The fact of the matter is that many people are “not there anymore” at any number of places even if they haven’t actually left. They are going through the motions while their heart, head and engagement are somewhere else. They have what McKesson colleague Mike Millet once dubbed “short-timer’s disease” – even if they aren’t leaving soon.

That was never Todd’s case: he was likely as fully engaged on his first day of a 24 year run as his last.

The Little School continues to thrive – good organizations like it are built on the contributions and skills of the many, not just the few – and be a terrific place to teach. If you’re even luckier, the place you have your kid taught.

Todd’s skill set and experience though met the perfect intersection of the national uptick of interest in early childhood education and program funding. Picking up his master’s degree, lecturing at university, speaking at conferences, and writing two books in the last few years all added to his cred.

After 24 years of teaching Todd’s hung out his shingle – “graduated” so to speak – as a consultant to schools and school districts, as well as to individual families. He is going to be terrific!

Little School will move on too, working hard to continue to be a pretty amazing place.

Lessons for all of us? Stay engaged in your work and keep honing the skills of your craft.

You never know where it will lead, even if it’s to “not there anymore.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub.

Pre-School Graduation!!! Photo credit: Wikipedia