From One Moment to the Next

Last Monday in Coolidge, I was coaching a cohort of teachers who are pursuing the National Board Certificates. Ben Barth, a massage therapy teacher at the Central Arizona Valley Institute of Technology (CAVIT), was in the zone. He planned to have his students react to realistic scenarios they may face in their careers. The scenarios would range from what to do if a client falls unconscious during a massage to what to do if you enter a room to give a massage and the client hasn’t draped themselves – an ethical, and perhaps legal, requirement for therapeutic massages. We discussed all the points he should look for that would count as evidence that Ben was an accomplished teacher.

None of that will happen. Ben Barth died in a motorcycle accident on his way to work Friday.

I didn’t know Ben well. Monday night was only the third time we had met face to face. But those brief meetings were enough to take his measure. Ben had the young unlined face and clear eyes of a man at peace. Only some gray in his facial hair suggested his 43 years. He was quick to laugh, open to ideas, expressive, and a complete professional. Ben, like many of CAVIT’s teachers, came from industry and shared their personable no-nonsense, straight-forward, thick-skinned, and reality-based disposition.

Of his accomplished teaching, there can be no doubt. According to the Casa Grande Dispatch, Ben’s CAVIT program ranked Number One for the past three years. His students had 100 percent pass rate in 2016 and ranked at the top of the state scoring.

Coaching conversations often digress into personal sharing, and I was fortunate to learn about Ben’s wife, three young children, and his work at his church, where he helped run the children’s ministry.

From my chair this afternoon, I looked past my laptop, through the living room window, over the oleanders and olive tree to the blue sky beyond and thought about my friend Ben, life, and temporal existence. Now it’s dark. The window only reflects my living room revealing nothing of what lies beyond. And that’s the state will live in: This world so comprehensible, the next out of reach of our faculties, and the boundary between the two as fragile as glass, capable of being shattered in an instant.

Ben Barth, now at rest in the arms of our Loving God, was a man in full and will be missed. Donations to support his grieving family can be made at 




Sandy Merz

I grew up in Silver City, New Mexico and went the University of New Mexico, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. After working for the U.S. Geological Survey in remote regions of western New Mexico, I moved to Tucson to attend graduate school at the University of Arizona, earning a Master of Science degree in Hydrogeology. While working as an intern hydrologist for a local county agency, I started doing volunteer work that involved making presentations in schools. At that moment I knew teaching was the path to follow. It must have been a good decision because I’m still on the path after thirty-two years. My teaching certificates are in math and science and I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Career and Technical Education. After teaching engineering and math and elective classes at the same school in downtown Tucson my whole career, I’ve moved to a different middle school and district on the edge of town to teach math. In addition to full time teaching, I am actively involved in the teacher leadership movement by facilitating National Board candidates, blogging for Stories from School Arizona, and serving on the Arizona K12 Center’s TeacherSolutions team. In January 2017, Raytheon Missile System named me a Leader in Education and I’m a former Arizona Hope Street Fellow.

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