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Dedicated to Mr. Coiro

Some of you may be wondering about the dedication to my first book, The Uninvited Guest. Meet the man who inspired me to write so many years ago.

When we take the time to look back at our days in school, whether elementary, high school or perhaps even college, there is always that one teacher who stood out among all the rest. You know, the one who really helped make a difference in your life. The one you always look back on and it brings a smile to your face.

For me that teacher was Mr. Michael Coiro.

That's not to say there weren't others who made a difference, because as they say "no man is an island." (Quick aside-as I type this I am nestled happily on our island paradise on the St. Lawrence River, our "happy" place.) It's just that for me, Mr. Coiro played the lead role in my personal Mount Rushmore of great teachers.

Mr. Coiro taught seventh and eighth grade English at my alma mater, Alexandria Central, but in reality he taught me a lot about life. He was the first teacher who encouraged me to write, and who saw something in the way I put words together on paper. The fact that he was actually able to read my horrible hand-writing was really an accomplishment in itself. But read it he did, and he always told me that someday I would write a book and become famous. I'm not holding my breath on the latter part of that prediction, but after a long, long wait I finally took care of the first half.

That's why when it came time to dedicate my first full-length book, The Uninvited Guest, there was no question who I wanted to dedicate it to. Mr. Coiro was the reason I kept on writing and eventually worked as a sports reporter and he was the reason why I went on to become an English teacher. He was kind, thorough and fair, qualities I always tried to emulate during my 29 years of teaching mostly ninth grade English. Initially I wanted to follow in his footsteps and teach junior high English, but after spending eight weeks as a student teacher with a group of eighth graders, I shifted gears and went for the high school. It's amazing how much difference a year or two makes in terms of overall maturity.

I marvel at the way he was able to handle all of us with such grace and tact. We read numerous great novels and short stories including Lost Horizon, Treasure Island, I Remember Mama and Johnny Tremain, to name a few. He had a lending library of paperback books and always encouraged us to read. Mr. Coiro had a way of making you feel good about yourself, and his enthusiasm was contagious. He lived just down the street from me, a stone's throw from school, and I never missed a chance to talk to him when I passed by the Coiro residence. Originally from Brooklyn and a graduate of St. John's University, he was a familiar fixture at sporting events and the driving force behind the school's award-winning color guard. In short, he was everything that is good about dear old ACS and the legendary Purple Ghosts.

But sadly, he left us far too soon. As Billy Joel once sang, "the good die young," and to me he was as good as they come.

As a teacher I thought about him a lot and tried to emulate his style. I have always regretted the fact that I couldn't talk shop with him about the teaching craft, because I know he would have provided me with a lot of good advice. But with the lessons I learned from Mr. Coiro as my guide I went on to have a memorable career as a teacher. Teaching ninth grade was always a challenge, but it was one I welcomed with open arms. And now that my teaching days are over, I can only hope that I made the same kind of impression on a few students that Mr. Coiro did on me. And I know that I was not alone in feeling this way about him.

So here's to you Mr. Coiro, and I hope that you're looking down from Heaven and smiling because even though it took me half a century to accomplish it, I finally did what you and many others always thought I could and should do. And the best part of it is that I'm just getting started, and there is a lot of lost time to make up for.

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