Thursday, August 15, 2013

To Ryan Davis: a word of thanks

Ryan, just before kindergarten

In March 2011 I found in my inbox one of the nicest emails I’ve ever received. 

It was sent to me from Ryan Davis, a former student of mine. 

In the subject line he wrote: a word of thanks

Ryan took the time to remember—and express his gratitude for—the years we shared in my kindergarten and fifth and sixth grade classrooms when he was a student at Dunham in the ’80’s.

Now it is my turn to remember—and express my gratitude—to him.

Ryan brought out the best in me. I wouldn’t call him an easy kid. Easy kids are hard to remember. They do as they’re told, don’t ask questions, and move along through the school without drawing attention to themselves.

Ryan made sure I noticed him. Ryan was insatiably curious and authentic. His mom and dad talked to him more than most parents do, so he came to kindergarten with lots and lots to say and a seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of questions to ask. His curiosity and authenticity didn’t fade as he went through school. Some teachers get annoyed with kids like Ryan. For me, they’re like oxygen.

He was a challenging kid—challenging in the very best sense of that word. He challenged me as his teacher to reach a little deeper and work a little harder to make things interesting and real. Ryan was never satisfied with mediocre; he expected the best. He took the lead role in the school play when he was in sixth grade. Appropriately, he played a detective.

Ryan wanted to know more than how and why things worked. He had an evaluative mind from very early on. If I read a story that he didn’t like, he could tell me why he didn’t like it. Ryan loved computers, even the primitive machines available in his childhood. He especially liked computer games which were still in their infancy in the ’80’s.

Ryan knew how to get noticed.

Upon graduating from an alternative high school, he went to work for a computer gaming magazine. Before long, with some friends, started his own internet-based business called Giant Bomb. Among other things, Giant Bomb reviews computer games. The best in the business, I’m told.

Ryan died unexpectedly last month on July 3. 

News of his passing went viral online. Heavy traffic caused more than one website to crash. Ryan was, I think, a great deal more famous than he knew. Along with many millions of others, I will miss him. 

I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say that Ryan Davis was the “Roger Ebert” of computer games.

I was privileged to know Ryan not virtually, but actually. Thank you, Ryan, taking the time letting me know I was your favorite teacher. The feeling was mutual.

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