Kenai Central High School choir teacher and director Rene Henderson was honored earlier this month for the difference she has made in her students' lives.
A tribute that brought together students from the past 30 years for a reunion concert made it clear that Henderson did far more than teach her students; she touched them in ways that changed their lives for the better.
Henderson is known as a demanding teacher who sets high, exacting standards for excellence -- and her students reach them. It's one of the reasons she's much admired and respected. She is able to coax talents and abilities out of students they don't even know they possess.
Over the years, her choirs have won state, national and international competitions.
In recognition of her accomplishments and in appreciation for all she's done for students and the community, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley issued a proclamation naming the KCHS auditorium the Rene C. Henderson Auditorium. It's an appropriate name, considering not only Henderson's professional accomplishments but the role she played in the conception, planning and drive to construct the auditorium.
As meaningful as the name is, however, Henderson's students gave her a far more memorable gift and in their actions taught the entire community a valuable lesson. The gift and lesson? The students honored their much-loved teacher while she was still around to bask in their compliments and affection and revel in their music-making.
There could be no better gift. We don't want to sound morbid here, because we expect Henderson to be around a good many years challenging students to reach for the stars, as well as those high notes. Unfortunately, however, too often we wait until it's too late to tell those we love and admire how much they mean to us and what a difference they made in our lives.
Henderson's students and other admirers didn't wait, and we suspect the glow of the memorable, magical reunion concert will last more than a lifetime. What a beautiful gift -- and lesson for us all.
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