“On that day all of us jumped in my car, I pushed down hard on that gas pedal, and we accelerated into the future while having only an inkling of the possible destination. On that day change was just fine since we all appeared ready and anticipated the ride.”
— A.J. Bucon, My Corner of the World
In 1991, I made the difficult choice to leave Wheeling, W.Va., for a teaching job in Wilson, N.C. I had wanted to remain in the Ohio Valley, but I felt the need to pack up my belongings and head south to see what the world would offer me there.
I was blessed to have spent 20 years as an educator at Ralph L. Fike High School in this growing city situated on US-264 and I-95. Two decades later, the principal at Central Catholic High School offered me an opportunity to teach at my alma mater. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to return to the Ohio Valley and to my family and friends who live here.
That first year returning to my roots and beginning my teaching experience at Central was an emotional one, to say the least. Not only was I making the adjustment to teachingin a new school, working with a new set of colleagues and meeting an entirely new student body, I was also readjusting to the culture and locale of the Ohio Valley. Throughout that whirlwind of a year, memories from my distant history growing up in Wheeling, my more recent life as a teacher in North Carolina and my present adventures returning 20 years later, began to blend together, leaving me with experiences that had remained locked in my memory until well over a year ago.
While writing my blog Time and Space, I developed a voice, which offered personal insights into life here in Wheeling, particularly in the Central community. A yearning began inside me to revisit my first year back in Wheeling as a teacher and as someone who was re-embracing the community where he spent his childhood. So I spent a year-long journey writing My Corner of the World, a book that allowed me to piece together my thoughts and feelings surrounding a period of time during which life was full of change, not only for myself but for my family, for my new school and for the students in my classroom. I believe there is a little bit of something for everyone in this book: an inside look at teaching, some stories about some remarkable students and some thoughtful considerations on important aspects of life.
I will leave you with this brief excerpt from the first chapter of My Corner of the World titled “Deep Breaths.” I hope that you can join me on my journey back to this wonderful time in my life and the lives of my students.
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I can recall the anxiety of moving back to West Virginia after spending over 20 years of my life teaching at Ralph L. Fike High School in Wilson, North Carolina. Returning to my alma mater Central Catholic High School in Wheeling was to be the pinnacle moment in my life during which a hometown son, one who had no choice but to move away to follow his dreams, returns home more confident and more cognizant of traditions and values, prepared to bring a slice of the world he has experienced back to his original community.
The view from Room 301 mirrored my life at that point. I glanced down at the courtyard, once a place where senior classes took a picture for the inside cover of the yearbook. I viewed the construction, the massive holes being dug for a renovation on the courtyard, the demolished sidewalks splayed as fodder for jackhammers which would rattle the windows of my classroom the entire year. I looked at the dome of the cathedral which pristinely blended into the blue sky surrounding it, untouched and detached from the chaos of progress which emanated from the courtyard below. Both unattached and attached at the same time. Two pictures yet only one story. The loud, annoying transformation of the past in the hope for a calm, compelling future, the cyclical change of life in all its glory.
After taking a deep breath, I exhaled.
So here I am, quixotically journeying through my memories of the distant past as they become prologue to the life I am living now. What do I hope I will find? Perhaps I will discover those life-affirming moments that happen in an instant and those that transpire over the course of time, those moments in which what I do as teacher, as guide, as listener or as friend create unique connections with my students, parents, family and colleagues, or even those moments when I have overcome obstacles to my personal growth and my vision regarding education. These moments offer some perspective about the purpose of life, the ways in which we treat each other, and the growth we experience together as human beings in a crazy, joyous, indifferent and, at times, dysfunctional world.
My Corner of the World is currently available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format.
• A.J. Bucon grew up in Wheeling, W.Va. He graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1982, where he currently teaches English. A.J. graduated from West Liberty State College in 1986. He moved to Wilson, N.C., where he taught for 21 years at Ralph L. Fike High School. He has been a National Board Certified teacher since 2011 and was recognized as Wilson County Schools Teacher of the Year in 2001, WTVD11 Neighborhood Hero — Educator of the Year in 2002, and received the Bonnie McKeever Roberts Award for Excellence in Education in 2016. He continues to make regular posts on his blog Time and Space. My Corner of the World is his first foray into book writing. A.J. currently resides in Wheeling, and makes regular visits to see his son Robert who lives in Wilson with his wife Emily and two children, Justin and Kaylee.