MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A former Coral Reef High School teacher battling terminal brain cancer which left him blind, crippled and losing his memory decided to visit his former students and ask them if he made a difference.
According to our news partners the Miami Herald, six years into his battle David Menasche, 41, could no longer even teach English at his beloved high school where he had been one of the founding teachers.
Menasche told the paper, “I was afraid of losing my purpose in life…For so long I had lived to teach my students and I couldn’t even do that.”
In 2012, Miami-born Menasche decided to stop treatment and set off cross-country to visit his former students and ask them if he had made a difference in their lives and what kind of legacy he was leaving.
His journey is documented in a memoir called “The Priority List: A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lessons.” According to the paper, the book does not offer easy answers, but more of an examined reality that is uplifting and, at times, comical.
Menasche will be talking about this book on Tuesday at Books & Books in Coral Gables.
The book covers his life as a teacher and his trip which started with a Facebook post talking about his intent to travel. According to the paper, within 48 hours he had offers for places to stay from former students in 50 different towns. He eventually traveled to 31 cities in 101 days and was able to spend time with 75 of his former students.
“I really didn’t know what I was going to encounter,” he told the Miami Herald over the phone. “But I wanted to find out if I had mattered in any way to all those students I had taught for 15 years.”
While some students complained about boring classes and books, he discovered his students had graduated with more than an appreciation of literature, according to the paper.
A list Menasche would use during his classroom lessons when his students were struggling with Shakespeare’s Othello, helped them with more than literature.
According to the paper, he came up with a list of words that could be applied to a person’s life, like honor wealth, love, power, and respect. Then he would ask his class to prioritize those words in the order of Othello characters. He would later ask his students to apply that list to their own lives.
One of his former students, Stephen Palahach, completed the list in high school and found artistic expression was at the top and spirituality was at the bottom but over time things changed a bit.
“Menasche was right. As I’ve gotten older, spirituality has become more important,” Palahach told the paper.
When Menasche returned from his trip, he began dictating the book into his phone.
“I thought I would probably die on the trip,” he told the paper, “but the trip actually saved me.”
According to the paper, Menasche’s health is currently stable and a recent MRI showed brain swelling had gone down.
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