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Teaching from the Heart

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pilotteacher.jpgOn July 3, 2016, Pilot Trey Turner saw a familiar old friend sitting across the gate area in Oklahoma City. Upon closer inspection, he realized he was being afforded the opportunity to reunite with his favorite teacher, whom he hadn’t seen in over 21 years.

Trey Turner, on Mrs. Laura Deaver:
I wouldn’t say I was a bad kid, but middle school was … a trying time. My interests in 6th grade were limited to planes and baseball. I had this wonderful teacher who had a baseball-themed classroom: Needless to say, she was my favorite.

That was 21 long years ago now, and I’ve spent the last two flying for Southwest. I’ve somehow managed to turn my favorite hobby into a career, and I’m so thankful Southwest has picked me to do this. I don’t typically think back on my mischievous middle school years, but I was confronted with them in the gate area of a recent flight to Houston.

Sitting at the gate doing some preliminary flight reading, clad in my Southwest uniform, I noticed a woman sitting across the gate area who looked familiar. I had to get closer to be sure, so I made my way toward her. Her phone was sitting on the seat next to her, so I pretended to sit on it ... she looked up and recognized me immediately.

“Oh my gosh, Trey Turner!” she shouted. And just like that, it was like I was in 6th grade again talking with my favorite teacher, Mrs. Laura Deaver.

“Every time I come down here, I look for you,” she told me. She wanted to take a selfie, but I knew I could give her a far better experience than a simple selfie. “Let’s go in the cockpit after the flight lands!” I suggested, since I was just traveling and not flying. She was so cute about it, asking, “Am I allowed to be up here?” We were afforded some time to catch up on the short flight over the last 21 years. She hadn’t aged a day.

“I am so proud of you,” she told me, “I can’t believe all that you’ve done.” Her compliments amused me, because I don’t feel like I’ve done that much. I get to spend my life doing what I love: flying planes.

Mrs. Laura Deaver, on Trey Turner:
Having been a teacher for 23 years, all of my students are my favorite, but there’s just something different about Trey. He has this twinkle in his eye. He was one of those kids that would hang around after class, just to talk.

My family and I fly nothing but Southwest Airlines. I’ve been Facebook Friends with Trey for years, so I knew he flew for Southwest, but it’s really unusual to run into former students. Sometimes you see them from afar, but they don’t recognize you. That wasn’t the case with Trey.

When we were boarding, he asked if I wanted to sit together on the plane and I said I absolutely did. I think he was almost as excited as I was.

It was clear, as he showed me his travel log and patiently answered all my aviation questions, that he has a true passion and love for what he does. It was so wonderful to see him so successful, and so happy to see me! I wanted to take a selfie with him, but he offered to show me the cockpit instead. Since we were last to get off the plane, Trey asked the Captain to take our picture. He explained how I was his 6th grade English teacher, which launched the Captain and First Officer into stories about their own middle school teachers.

You see them as 6th graders, and sometimes later in middle school. Every once in a while one will come back, but for all intents and purposes, you don’t see them again. They don’t come back to visit. Running into Trey made my summer. It may have made my year! It’s still on my bucket list to be on a plane that he’s flying—I’d fly anywhere with him.

You won’t get friendlier skies than Trey Turner. Did I tell you about the twinkle in his eye? He always looks like he’s up to something.