A few weeks ago, I experienced the sudden loss of my kindergarten mentor and best friend, Eyal Levine. I met Eyal almost a decade ago while teaching at my first school. From the moment we met, our connection was instantaneous – we bonded over Star Trek, and once used the Smart Board in our library to watch an episode during lunch – that is one of my favourite memories of just how goofy we were together! We taught kindergarten together in a shared space, and to be honest, ‘work’ didn’t feel like work. It was literally like hanging out with my best friend all day, every day.
Over the years, Eyal was not only my bestie, but my mentor, and inspiration – he LOVED kindergarten, teaching kindergarten, discussing early years pedagogy, building relationships with families – he loved it all. His smile was larger than life, his laugh was contagious, and his willingness to help anyone anytime was beautiful. To meet him was to become part of his family – he loved everyone, and he loved life. His presence both in and out of the classroom was incredibly authentic, and in 2009, he won the Ontario Teacher’s Federation Beginning Teacher award. In true Eyal fashion, however, when the caretaker’s hung up his award near his classroom door, he removed it and discretely took it home. Eyal was never one to boast, and he often would say “I know nothing” – soaking in new ideas and constantly learning from others.
As September and the start of a new school year approaches, I decided to write a quick blog post about some of the lessons I’ve learned from him over the years …
- Live your bucket list.
Eyal believed in making a bucket list, and then getting right to it! Over the last year, he became a painter, experimented with glass blowing, metal working, and even attended a wilderness survival course during the winter. His enthusiasm for life was limitless, and he loved every minute of it. He didn’t believe in waiting for a special time to begin crossing things off his list, he believed in now.
2. Challenge yourself – for fun!
Eyal chose experiences to challenge him without the pressure of being ‘perfect’. “I know nothing.” he would often say, and was always excited to learn new things, practice them, and get better at his chosen goal/experience. At the end of the day, it was all for fun – and in his authenticity, the last speech he gave at his Toastmasters club (on the topic of embracing life) won him their Beginning Toastmaster of the year award.
3. Ice cream is always a good idea!
It’s so easy to get caught up in life’s ‘busy-ness’, but it’s important to remember to take the time to enjoy simple pleasures such as ice cream, time with family and friends, and staying in the present moment. One of my favourite memories of spending time with Eyal is our regular trips to Baskin Robbins where we would chat kindergarten, life, dreams, and goals over delicious ice cream. Rain or shine, winter, summer, spring or fall, some quality time with family and friends over ice cream is always a great idea!
I hope the life lessons I have learned from Eyal’s may also inspire you to stay in the present moment, continue to reach for new goals, and most importantly, really enjoy ice cream!
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln