Note: I don’t know details, I just know that Will passed away last week.
Before there was thewillshat and May the Forms be With You, there was a man named Will Kimbley. I first met Will as so-called Re-Entry student at Fresno Pacific around 2003. Unbeknownst to me, for a year he was writing a paper about me for a class he was taking as part of the scholarship . He shared it with me after writing it – he’d been watching how I interacted with people not just during the semi-monthly Senate meetings of which I presided over but also how I came early to help set up, cleaned up afterwards, made time for people, and genuinely cared about the issues and the people involved. We also had long email exchanges arguing things discussed in Senate (in particular I found an email exchange we had that if printed out would be about 8 pages around the issue of Commencement and units transferring or not etc). Will would often talk about how I was the first person he knew who had a gmail.com address and I actually ‘gave’ an account to him in the days when that was a thing circa 2004.
As we both started teaching – him in Elementary and myself in Secondary, we stayed in touch a bit but this was really before Facebook was everywhere and Twitter even existed. I went to a few CV CUE conferences and would see Will, but it wasn’t until around 2010 that we reconnected.
Funny story: I don’t remember the circumstances, but one time I didn’t have my phone and needed to call my wife to tell her something important – but couldn’t. So I messaged him on Facebook to ask him to call my wife and ask her whatever it was I needed… he actually did as awkward as that probably was because she had no ideas who he was. That’s the kind of guy Will was – always willing to be helpful when needed!
In 2011 we both attended a CUE Rockstar Camp at Minarets High School and for the first time I saw just how popular he was in Ed-tech circles. He really was a rockstar with his knowledge and ability to put practical technology in the hands of kids, and train their teachers as well. But more importantly, he welcomed my wife and I, introducing us to people he knew and speaking highly of us. A few weeks later we both found ourselves teaching at Computech Middle School last minute and did quite a bit of cross-curricular partnerships!
It was Will who first encouraged me to present at the smaller CV CUE conferences to get my feet wet; I’ve presented all over the country now. None of it would have happened if Will had not encouraged me, given kind yet useful feedback, and been a role model for how to take what he was doing in the classroom and make it accessible for other teachers. He actually gave me the CUE conference registration where I ended up meeting the CEO of OpenEd and was offered a job in 2014 (didn’t end up leaving until a year late).
The last time I saw Will was a year ago at the Lead 3.0 conference in Redondo Beach. He was preparing to leave for Monterey so had driven down that day I believe – a long haul! We had a great time catching up on our different careers in a limited amount of time and wished each other well, talked about meeting up etc in the Bay Area/Monterey but it just didn’t quite work out with my own schedule with kids.
Rest in peace Will. You inspired many and we learned a lot from you. Your life touched us to be better, to get involved, to smile and follow the mantra:
“I measure myself, not by how well I teach, but by how well my students learn.