We lost another one this week. Kenneth McCord was 79 years old; a longtime teacher in S&S, Whitesboro, and Sherman; and he had a major impact on my life — actually, two impacts.
Coach McCord was a math teacher and coach at Piner Middle School. He began teaching at the Sherman school the same year that I started seventh grade — 1972. It was the “new” school in town as Sherman had just gone to the middle school concept from the junior high concept. (Piner Junior High School had been around for years; it had just moved into the old high school building by U.S. Highway 75 when the new Sherman High School opened in 1970.
Coach McCord — I didn’t know he had a first name for a few years — came from Whitesboro where he had taught for four years. I didn’t have him for any classes, and I didn’t play sports that first year, so I rarely saw Coach during that school year — at least not at school.
Coach had a son in the seventh grade, too — one who is still my best friend today. And I met Mike McCord early on that year as we both navigated school and friendship. This includes visiting Mike at his house on numerous occasions – on the weekends and such – where Coach was around, too. So, I got to know the father of my best friend in a different light than the other students at Piner.
It was so cool to have such a friend in Mike; I could tell this friendship was long term. But it was also great to be around an adult who embodied qualities youth should aspire to. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was learning from Coach McCord almost as much as I was learning from Mike. Coach — I simply couldn’t call him Mr. McCord — was friendly, loyal, affable and down to earth. You didn’t owe him anything, and he made sure you had what you needed when you were around. It was an unspoken bond with him, one that I grew to cherish. And one that I am glad to have experienced.
He cared and not just superficially. He looked deeper and brought depth to his caring.
Once we there were working on a car. Coach noticed I had my watch on my right arm as a right-handed person. He explained it was generally worn on the left arm for right-handers, but it was OK either way. It was a small thing, but every time I look at my watch, now on my left arm, I think of him. He cared about people and their situations; he was a person of integrity and caring. He gave guidance in everyday life; that’s special anyway you look at it.
And I haven’t even gotten to the important part yet.
I had him in math class and as a coach the following year. Mike and I were on the Piner football team in eighth grade. I wasn’t any good — I was a back-up at best — but Coach McCord treated us all the same. He taught as he did in the classroom, and the team was better for it. He was only one of two football coaches I ever had, and he set the bar way too high.
But it was in the classroom where he excelled. I can say from firsthand experience that he had a way with teaching that worked. He made algebra accessible to us all. He would repeat lessons to ensure everyone got it. He would work individually with students. And best of all, he did it with a great attitude and a few stories along the way. I have fond memories of my time at Piner and Coach is a major reason why.
Coach was a role model in all that he did. He helped mold young men at that incredible coming of age time with his attitude and demeanor. He cared about kids in the community from his son’s friends to the neighbors and beyond. He made time for them and helped them away from school. And Coach was this incredible teacher – for 47 years – who believed learning was most important. All you had to do was look at the front of the classroom to see your model for life.
It’s hard when people such as Coach McCord leave us. One reflects how that person touched lives both personally and in general. Most young people don’t see the teaching going on at the time because people like Coach simply live it and aren’t trying to teach anything; they are showing you. They are being that model one needs to succeed in life.
Dwayne Wilder is a resident of Sherman and a freelance writer for the Herald Democrat.