I was pleased to see NPR legend Claudio Sanchez was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Education Writers Association’s Lifetime Achievement Prize. 

I wasn’t surprised to read in his biography that he started his career as a teacher. Not only have I loved hearing his pieces on the radio, but I am lucky enough to be the recipient of his knowledge. I’m sure he doesn’t even remember the story I am about to tell, but the impact he made is immeasurable.

Those who know me best, or have been subjected to my musings, know that I started my career as a university policy wonk. After a twist of fate–or a series of crises, as we most often reference such situations–I found that I had an interest and talent in media relations. I changed careers and embraced my new path.

I quickly learned that fulltime media relations is hard. You get used to nonresponses from reporters and consider a “no” a win because at least you received some sort of feedback. It was during one of those frustratingly silent days that my phone rang and Claudio Sanchez was on the other end of the line.

Claudio. Sanchez. Called. Me.

He read a couple of my pitches and was very clear that he didn’t have any interest in covering what I was sending his way. However, he wanted to give me a call and let me know someone had read my messages and that I should keep pitching the topics because there was merit in the storylines and my efforts.

I pulled myself together enough to asked him a couple of questions, which he graciously answered. He approached the moment like a teacher–balancing support and challenge. He inspired me to hone my skills and keep trying. I’ve never shared how much our brief conversation meant to me or how much I have thought about his advice over the years. The generosity of his time and knowledge was everything.

And with that, sincere congratulations to Claudio on the much-deserved writing award. His impact on me extends well beyond his reporting and will continue despite his retirement. Felicidades Claudio!