Teacher uses birthdays to stay in touch

Published 2:10 am Saturday, September 3, 2011

Every teacher I had me during my school years made an impact on my life – some more than others.  Along the way, my favorite teachers instilled a love of history and inspired a love of words.

Recently, I heard about a remarkable high school teacher named Dan Stroup who teaches at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis, Ind.  Every year he sends a birthday greeting to his students, but not just during the eighth grade.

Stroup remembers each of his students’ birthdays until they graduate from high school and after they go to college, get married, and start a family and career.  It’s a tradition he began 30 years ago.

Though it would be convenient to send an email or purchase a birthday card, Dan Stroup sends handwritten notes to his students. Local news media have reported on the school teacher’s annual greetings to students and former students.

In an interview, Stroup said that everybody likes finding mail in their mailbox. He spends time in the evenings writing a personal message to his students. Sometimes, it only takes a few minutes, but other nights it may take a couple of hours. He keeps their names and birthdays in a small book, but is also known for his recall of the 2500 students he has taught.

Stroup’s students look forward to receiving his letters year after year. They now live in 60 cities, 36 states, and six countries. Students have commented on the lasting impact Dan Stroup has made on their lives by his words of encouragement in their birthday letters. Some have said they keep their letters for many years.

Described as a humble man, Stroup quietly wrote his students for many years, keeping the tradition a secret.  When parents and faculty found out, they decided to help him continue his tradition.  Stroup commented that he hasn’t had to purchase stamps for almost 15 years because they replenish his supply.

Just before Mr. Stoup’s birthday in 2008, a former student started a Facebook page to remind fellow alums about their teacher’s birthday. Dan Stroup said he received more than 300 handwritten notes in his mailbox.

Another thing that makes this teacher’s greetings unique is that he includes a Bible verse on each letter.  Since he teaches a Bible class at a Christian school, he would have the freedom to do so. He chooses a verse to use the entire year, but says he does not use a form letter.

A couple of years ago, according to an interview on an Indianapolis television station, Stroup chose James chapter 1 verse 22, “Do not merely listen to the word, but do what it says” (NIV). Every year, Stroup will ask about their children and careers.

Dan Stroup’s impact on his students reminds me of Mother Teresa’s words, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” She also once said, “Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”