When this biology teacher got a phone call from a former student, who is now a brain surgeon, it was a truly touching moment for everyone involved.
As part of teacher appreciation week a few years ago, Dr. Lee Buono decided to make a special phone call and thank his biology teacher. Albert Siedlecki was the one who inspired Dr. Buono to become a neurosurgeon, and their story was captured on video by Classroom Close Up NJ.
The video begins by introducing Mr. Siedlecki, who has been teaching science for middle schoolers for nearly 40 years.
There are several clips of him in his classroom at Memorial Middle School in Medford Township, where he has taught for most of his career. There, the video explains, “he is affectionately known as Mr. Sie.”
Between his hands-on learning techniques and his reputation for challenging students to do their best possible work, Mr. Sie has made a strong impact on many students over the years.
Even so, he didn’t realize “what he meant to some of these students.”
That was, until Dr. Lee Buono gave him a call.
In an interview included in the video, Mr. Siedlecki told the camera:
“The secretary said it’s not another teacher, it’s not the school nurse. It’s a doctor from the Dallas Fort Worth area, who adamantly wants to speak to you right this minute. And she said it’s a Dr. Buono.”
While initially caught off guard, Mr. Siedlecki said:
“I remembered the name.”
Once on the phone, Mr. Sie asked:
“Lee, Lee, what’s going on? What are you calling me for?”
Lee Buono was a student of Mr. Sie during the mid-1980s, and Mr. Siedlecki certainly didn’t expect to receive a phone call from him.
Since being in Mr. Siedlecki’s class during middle school, Dr. Buono had become a notable neurosurgeon. He told the camera:
“I was operating on a judge and the judge had to do what’s called an awake craniotomy, where I’m doing a brain procedure on someone who’s awake because the tumor is in their motor area of speech.”
He went on:
“The judge had difficulty speaking, and after the surgery was finished, he could speak, and he was crying. And the wife was crying as well. […] And he said, ‘You make sure that you thank Mr. Sie.’”
The judge didn’t refer to Mr. Sie by name. Instead, he just told Dr. Buono to thank “the person, the teacher that you had.” The judge wanted to ensure Dr. Buono thanked “him for the inspiration to be here.”
During his portion of the interview, Mr. Sie tears up while discussing what Dr. Buono said on the phone.
“It changed the way I look at every student. From that phone call on. It was a life-changing phone call. And I said ‘Why would you call me?’ And he said ‘You remember that day after school, I took the brain and spinal cord out of the frog? You told me it was the best one you’d ever seen.’”
At this point in the video, Mr. Siedlecki has to pause to wipe away tears.
According to Dr. Buono:
“He said to me, ‘You know, you got the hands of a surgeon. You’re a smart, bright boy, and you could be a surgeon, you could be a brain surgeon if you want.’”
Dr. Buono still remembers that discussion with Mr. Sie vividly because of its impact on his life. Dr. Buono explained how important it was that Mr. Sie told him that, saying that he may not have gone into his career without the conversation.
Amazingly enough, Mr. Sie still has the brain and spinal cord of the frog from the dissection that made such an impact on Dr. Buono.
Near the end of the video, we get to see Dr. Buono visiting Mr. Sie in his classroom. When he learns that his former teacher still has the spinal cord and brain, he is shocked. Dr. Sie also presented Dr. Buono with a plaque holding those parts of the frog. The inscription reads:
To: Dr. Lee Buono
For: His First Neurosurgery
‘A Frog Brain’
From: Mr. Siedlecki
This touching story just goes to show how much of an impact that teachers can have on their students’ future.
It also shows how important it is that students take the time to show their appreciation.
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