When it comes to teaching students the value of respect, Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School in South Easton has raised the bar.

The Southeastern football team has developed a tradition that, in my opinion, should be adopted into every school sports program. Hawks football coach Dominique Williams came up with the idea to have each of the seniors on the team pick a teacher who means a lot to them in one way or the other and ask them to hold their game day jerseys until Homecoming.

"It felt really good, especially since it's been tough coming back from COVID," Graphic/Web Design and Social Media Marketing teacher Wade Gomes said. "It's been a struggle to get back on track, a lot of students and teachers are burnt out."

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Jovanny Mendes, a player on the football squad, presented Gomes with his jersey alongside his teammates and his coach. "Mr. Gomes, I'd like to present to you with my jersey since you were the person who had the biggest impact on me," he said.

Fourteen years of teaching and Gomes can count on one hand when a student has said that they were inspired, and it's usually when the student returns after graduation. This one was especially impactful for him since Mendes still attends the school.

Over the past four years, Gomes has watched Mendes' confidence grow at Southeastern and now that he's a senior, he's proud of who the young man has become.

"You never know the impact you make sometimes," Gomes said. "Staying consistent as possible is never easy. You never know if you're doing a good job and once in a while, you're reminded, and that's the best feeling."

Both Gomes and Mendes love bonding over the NBA and share a common interest with the Boston Celtics.

"I'm just really, really proud of how far he's come and now that's he's in this fourth year, I watched him grow and blossom into this confident senior who plays on the football team now and become a mature and great kid," Gomes said. "He is loved and respected among his friends. Sometimes seniors let the power of being a senior get to their head and he never forgot his roots. I can't emphasize enough how amazing it's been seeing how far he's come as a person."

Sometimes in life, it's the little things that matter most and can turn a bad day into a great one.

"I thank him so much for honoring me, we don't always get that initial feedback, that verbal recognition really is something that kicks in the inspiration again as a teacher," Gomes said. "It's easy to get in a rut teaching, so it's nice to get that boost."

It just goes to show that gestures of respect and inspiration like this jersey exchange can truly go a long way for someone. It's not easy being a teacher in 2021, but the football team at Southeastern has done a tremendous job brightening the days of a few select teachers whose lessons have stuck with them throughout the years.

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