Columns, Opinion

Commentary: Muleskinner adviser wins adviser of the year

“Show us, don’t just tell.” These are the words I constantly hear, like a broken record in my head.

As a journalist, specifically a feature writer, I need to put my readers where my subject was, and it’s my job to best describe those details as if I were there, or ask the right questions so I can also “be there.”

I am at a total loss for the right words to show. At first I thought, “I can’t show an emotion.” Unless it goes something like, when you shake a bottle of soda and then try to open it and the fizz slowly begins to creep up the side of the bottle, but you quickly seal it to keep it from exploding.

There was a moment at the Missouri College Media Association awards ceremony, that I felt like the bubbly liquid inside the bottle. We were wrapping up the awards and got to “Adviser of the Year.”

Of course I had my opinions on why Matt Bird-Meyer should win but I also got to witness and interact with a lot of good advisers that day.

The girl reading the award said she remembered a quote from the recipient. He said he would fall on his sword for his students. I could slowly feel my face getting warmer and a defiant pulse in my right wrist becoming quicker.

The slide changed. Adviser of the Year, Matt Bird-Meyer.

“That’s us, holy s***.” I have never whipped around so quickly, and in time to see Matt’s jaw literally drop. He sat there for a second. He looked like a student, lost in the lesson.

I can confirm — that slide most definitely said his name and he was still processing.

This is where that bottle became unsealed and the excitement overflowed out. I stood up and began clapping, punching my fist in the air, as if this were some big game we just won.

“Yes, Matt, that’s you,” I said. “Let’s go.”

We did it. We didn’t really do it, Matt did it. He finally got rewarded on a larger scale for all the work, patience and talent that he has shared with every single student he has ever worked with. He is not just an adviser. He is a mentor, role model, friend and someone you can trust and ask anything without feeling belittled.

I think this is where the finding the right words is going to be hard because I have had good teachers in college, hell, some have been great. But none of them have been Matt.

Extraordinary? Seems cliche. Unrivaled? Getting closer. You can’t compare what he has done to anyone else. You just have to sit in a class and then you’ll know.

I remember his editing and design class was one of the first college classes where I truly felt like each lesson built on something, like Legos. Once the final project rolled around, every step we had taken was a Lego piece to this elaborate tower.

He is always present in the classroom and attentive to students. The classes I’ve had with him tend to be smaller, so we all get close and it’s less of a lecture and more of a conversation. If someone brings up something, even if it is off-topic, he’ll take time to listen, acknowledge the point and get the conversation back on topic.

Not only is he great in the classroom, he is also a cool human. For another class, I had to find a unique person as the subject for a feature package. After receiving this assignment, I ran into the newsroom, somewhat hysteric, which is nothing new, and asked if anyone knew anyone “cool.” It was quiet for a bit and after some conversation, it was brought up that Matt skateboards. It took me a second. I thought, “There is no way.” He just got like a thousand times cooler.

After some questions, Matt and his skateboarding hobby was the subject of my project. He’s been “shredding” since he was 10.

I got to spend time with him and one of his sons at the skate park and just talked about why he does it, his favorite tricks and memories.

He put the board down, one foot balanced on the board, the other effortlessly pushing off the ground, going with the highs and lows of the course.

It was time that I am so glad I got to have. A moment where I got to see what he was passionate about outside of teaching and really get brought into a part of his world that makes him the unique individual that he is.

Something he said that stuck with me — skating is cool because, “It brings people together.”

I don’t know if I should attribute my college successes to when Matt began skateboarding, but I know that he has brought me together with so many brilliant and accomplished people. For that, I am forever grateful. There are not enough words in the world to justify the overflowing amount of gratitude and pride that I have for Matt. Now, Adviser of the Year and so deserving.

Instead of trying to find any more words, I will take all of this wisdom and skill that I have learned from him and go forth to do good for another community.

While we never know what comes next for us we must continue to “roll away,” or on to the next big adventure.

“You have to try. You have to go out and do it and fall and fall and fall,” he said. “It’s sort of like a life lesson, get back up every single time.”

The semester has knocked me off the board of life a few times. I am back up and ready to keep rolling, onto the next adventure.

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