Teacher of the Year – a diary entry and album of photos/videos

This year I received the 2012 Jerome Perlinski Teacher of the Year from the American Massage Association.  I thank AMTA for this great honor and thank Central Texas therapist/fellow teacher, Ariana Vincent, for initiating the nomination and seeing that process through.

It was a rich and evocative experience. On October 4th my wife, Julie, and I flew to the AMTA National Convention in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Honestly I hadn’t been to an AMTA Convention in at least 15 years – so it was a fascinating déjà vu .

On the first morning of the convention there was a rousing morning of speeches and awards led by the dynamic AMTA President, Cynthia Ribeiro – a wildly enthusiastic Brazilian wonder woman!

I was called onto the stage to receive the award.  It was a memorable life moment.  Us teachers rarely get recognition from anyone other than our students – and that’s really enough!  But to get recognition from my peers and the group I joined over 30 years ago – it is very special.

I spent the day in various educational programs and reconnected with a variety of old and new friends – Nancy Dail, fellow award recipient Carole Osborne, Ralph Stevens, Ruth Werner, Rick Rosen, John Matthew Upledger, Allissa Haines, Laura Allen, the Texas Chapter of AMTA, and at the booth sponsored by the Zero Balancing Health Association – wonderful volunteers there gave hundreds of free ZB sample sessions.

The following day I had two big events: a 20 minute talk at the Teachers’ Luncheon and a book-signing at the Upledger Institute’s booth in the exhibit hall.  I had been working on the speech off and on for weeks, yet it still felt incomplete.  I read it over in the hotel to Julie and she noted it was too autobiographical.  So…back to drawing board!

Finally I decided to do a talk of thanks – since I owe so much to my teachers and my students who are also my teachers.  Then I spoke about the topic near and dear to me for so long – the art of doing massage and the art of teaching.  It culminated in a sing-a-long (couldn’t you guess?).  With the loan of a lovely Washburn guitar from Laura Allen, I lead everyone in a call and response based on the song “The Glory of Love” but we made it into “The Glory of Teaching” – e.g. “Cry a little, sigh a little, let the clouds roll by a little….that’s the glory of, that’s the story of…teaching!”  It went over wonderfully.  Thanks to Cyndy Farrar of Massage Associates of Atlanta and Kate Ivane Henri Zulaski, Executive Director of the Commission on Massage Accreditation, who hosted the luncheon and were most gracious to Julie and me.

That afternoon I did a book signing at the Upledger booth.  As many of you know, the book I began in 1999 was published this year – The Deep Massage Book – How to Combine Structure and Energy in Bodywork.  So there was a lot of enthusiasm for it and in an hour I had signed over 20 books and had some delightful conversations with therapists and teachers from all around the world.

The next day I missed actually doing bodywork so I volunteered to do a few sessions at the Zero Balancing booth!  Deep Massage and Zero Balancing plus my family and school – that’s my life!

Yet now added to this everyday work is the honor of this award.  Honestly when I think about the 30 years I’ve been teaching it is a wonder to behold.  The passage of time makes it seem like it was just yesterday that I taught my first classes at the Chicago School of Massage, or attended the AMTA Convention in Myrtle Beach which spawned the illustrious “Iliotibial Band”, just yesterday that this guy named John Conway came over to my house for the first time, just yesterday that I met this brilliant, beautiful, funny, and kind massage therapist, Julie Lauterstein (nee Harper).

What a blessing is this work.  I thank everyone who has accompanied me along this path.  I guess all we’re doing is exchanging our gifts.  May this honor reflect upon you and all – warming us all – knowing that, to paraphrase Pablo Neruda, “this small and mysterious exchange of gifts remains deep inside us, deep and indestructible, giving our work light.”