A 14-year-old student shot and killed Michael Landsberry, a math teacher, and critically injured two classmates before shooting himself at his Nevada middle school Monday morning. Before the shooting the student was heard yelling: “Why you people making fun of me, why you laughing at me?”
Landsberry, a popular 8th grade math teacher at the Sparks Middle School, ran across the basketball courts towards the shooter and told him to put down the gun. The boy yelled at the teacher to back off and then shot him, killing him instantly. The teacher, a former Marine, had just celebrated his wedding anniversary this past weekend. He was a beloved math teacher and soccer coach, but the real lessons that he has left behind are lessons of the heart.
1. Say “I love you” today. Just a few days before he was killed, Michael wrote on his Facebook page: “Happy Anniversary to my beautiful wife Sharon Landsberry. You are my world, my everything. I love you so so so very much!” Too often we think we have unlimited time to express our feelings to those we love. We push off saying “I love you” for tomorrow or maybe the day after. We may even forget about it all together by then. Michael’s heart felt message to his wife teaches us all: Say it today.
2. Learn from each person. On his website for his students, Landsberry wrote: “Just like you I have good days and bad days. What may bother me one day may not the next. A very good skill to learn is reading people and their moods. We will learn a lot from each other this year and what bothers us the most. One of my goals is to earn your respect while you earn mine.”
This constant striving for mutual respect with his students not only made him a favorite teacher but taught his students to notice each other’s feelings and perspectives. He encouraged them to learn from every person, on the soccer field and in the classroom. When the news broke that Michael had died, hundreds of messages began pouring in from students thanking him for teaching them how to be better people.
3. Become a crucial player in your children’s life. Landsberry had two stepdaughters and no biological children of his own. But what he put into his parenting in the few years that he was given to be a father is evident through this post written by his stepdaughter, Andrea, this past summer: “This man, my dad has been through so much to make me and my family happy, and I don’t know what I would do without him. He hasn’t always been in my life since he just married my mom a few years ago, but it feels like he has been there for me forever. We act the same which can cause us arguments sometimes. But no matter what I’ll always love him. I love you dad.”
Being a parent is challenging. Being a stepparent is even harder. But when our time in this world is up, there is nothing more meaningful and extraordinary than having had the opportunity to love and nurture our children.
4. Go the extra degree. On the bottom of his website for his students Landsberry posted an inspiring video, called 212 Degrees, whose transcript reads as follows: “At 211 degrees, water is hot. At 212 degrees, it boils. And with boiling water comes steam. And steam can power a locomotive. One extra degree makes all the difference. And the one extra degree in business and in life… separates the good from the great. The average margin of victory for the last 25 years in all major tournaments combined was less than three strokes. The margin of victory between an Olympic Gold Medal and no medal at all is extremely small, less than a second. It’s your life. You are responsible for the results. It’s time to turn up the heat. To get what we’ve never had we must do what we’ve never done. 212 degree attitude: The only thing that stands between a person and what they want in life is the will to try it and the faith to believe it possible.”
This is how Michael lived his last moment, running across the basketball court to go that extra degree and putting himself in the line of fire to save others. He was willing to die for what he stood for. As one student posted: “Mr. Landsberry always told me he’s not afraid of a fight, that he would do anything to protect the people that he loved.”
Perhaps, just for today, we can go that extra degree and live one of these lessons of the heart that Michael left behind for all of us. We don’t know what that one extra degree can accomplish. It may change you. It may change your children. It may change everything.