February 8, 2014

Dan Ebeling Tribute Column

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A Teacher for life: Dan Ebeling Tribute column

A Teacher For Life

              Perhaps it is fitting that when I went to publish my tribute column of the late Daniel Ebeling, the entire column just disappeared. I was extremely upset for I hadn’t saved it. I had eight paragraphs explaining how great of a teacher in life that Ebeling was. I defended him throughout eight paragraphs and realistically came close to almost worshiping him. I firmly believe in my heart that my column evaporated that quickly for a reason. He wouldn’t want a column that just stated all of the great things that he did. Mr. Ebeling was more in depth than that and he showed the world how to take responsibility for actions and how to keep your head up when circumstances made it rather difficult.
 I remember calling Ebeling when Southmoreland replaced him as a band instructor a few years ago. I was outraged and talked about writing a column in the Independent Observer with the intent on totally bashing the school district. Ebeling told me that everything happens for a reason and to not worry about him and that he would be fine. He didn’t have one bad thing to say about SHS except for he would miss his students. Unfortunately for his students, family, and friends we would miss Ebeling sooner than we thought possible.
            When Ebeling passed away in a car accident two years ago it marked one of the saddest events in my lifetime. I was a nuisance for many teachers, often being labeled a disrespectful student. I didn’t look up to many teachers at all, but Ebeling was special. He didn’t treat us like students. He treated us like young adults. I never forgot Ebeling after I graduated. I saw him a few times, once as a band director for Mt. Pleasant. I had been in attendance for a random football game in Franklin Regional. I spotted Ebeling and rushed over to him. He told the security guard to let me on the field and he had a huge grin on his face and shook my hand like an old friend. We were old friends. We shared something special. There were 9 other students who had third period study hall with the old band director. We all knew how special that period was for all of us and remarkably Ebeling might not have had any idea how much we all cherished that period.
            As a band director, Ebeling was remarkable. I remember getting shivers every time coming out of the locker room for high school basketball games. The band was just fantastic and I firmly believe it helped turn our basketball program around. An opposing player once told me in an interview for the IO, “ Southmoreland always played solid defense, and with that band it could be a very intimidating place to play,”. TJ Dunn, a starting forward for the team and reserve forward Tony Sonita also were in that 3rd period study hall. TJ and I were friends for years and Sonita and I became friends after our junior year of basketball. The three of us have many memories over the years. Nothing comes to close to our memory of the late Daniel Ebeling.
            Our study hall was special because from Day 1 Ebeling won us over just by being a real genuine guy with us. He showed us respect and really valued our opinions on world affairs. He loved the Penguins, before they were good I might add. He also loved classic rock. We learned about Styx, Kansas, Foreigner, and last but certainly not least, Journey. Every day you could hear the song, “Wheel in the sky,” in the band room. It wasn’t just Ebeling or myself that would turn it on either. There were 3 different social cliques in that study hall and I know for a fact that a person from each would play that song at least one time a day. We became one as a unit and I’ll remember that period each day for the rest of my life. Ebeling taught us about the real world and wasn’t afraid to talk about touchy subjects that other teachers would avoid. Let me be clear as well in saying that he never crossed a line, he always maintained professionalism too.
            We talked about anything imaginable and he always had an open door policy. He was like a guidance counselor. His band came first and he let us know it. When band business wasn’t needed during that period he wouldn’t be opposed to letting us watch movies and that was special. As long as they weren’t rated R and weren’t too vulgar he would approve. He would be doing work as always but wasn’t afraid to join us for a few of them and I’ll never forget his laugh. It was a totally you had to be there moment but you don’t get a lot of those in high school.
            Ebeling might not have realized how much of an impact he made on us heathen kids, or his band members. He had aspirations himself. He cared about playing in his band, the now defunct Deceptions. They must have been good because on Facebook you can see that they were invited to play at the Hard Rock Café. The first time I wrote this column I had a lot more interesting things about Ebeling and I spent a lot of time giving him praise about how he held his head up high after a difficult situation in which his teaching certificate was rescinded. There is a reason I believe that my column evaporated and I’m thinking that Ebeling wouldn’t feel comfortable taking credit for showing us as students how you can make a mistake and learn from it and still be a great leader.
            The name Daniel Ebeling means something different to everybody. When he passed away it wasn’t the right time to discuss what was wrong and what was right. Two years later, it still isn’t.  With his passing away, I didn’t go to the funeral home or the funeral because I was out of town. I regret not making the drive home because I wanted people to know how great of a man he was. I’m sure people that know him can agree but I wanted the world to know. He continued to lead and set examples even in that difficult circumstance.
As you can read on his Facebook page he wanted to reconnect with his friends and family. What saddens me is that I don’t think he knew how his life would significantly better so many people. When somebody passes usually that is what people say. This guy took a rowdy study hall that had full intentions on using that time to screw around and realistically matured us before the end of the year. He didn’t sugarcoat life after high school. He knew it was unrealistic that everybody was going to go to college and become doctors. He knew we needed someone giving us the low down on life. I needed it and I’m pretty positive that there was a reason for each person being in that study hall.
 It would have been his birthday (Feb 8) and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate it then a night of his favorite music and drinks. Throughout the night I want people to come up to the microphone and share us some stories. It will help the grieving process for all of us. His life deserves to be celebrated. He was a great man. We all make mistakes. Sometimes, newspapers or the internet doesn’t air ours out in public as his did, but god gives challenges to those that can handle them. He stayed in the area and kept his head held high. They may have rescinded his teaching certificate but Mr. Ebeling should always be remembered as a teacher for he was one of the best in the business. He will always be one of the best band directors of any era. And he will always be a man whom I can look up to.
As I play that infamous 3rd period study hall song I can’t help but think of the message of not only the song but Ebeling himself. His constant theme of his life lessons is that life goes on. Or even better, the wheel in the sky keeps on turning.

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