The “Wink”


“A wink takes less than a second to do, but will benefit someone for the rest of their life.”

I will play a podcast or two for some white noise when I am extensively working at my computer. There are times where I am working and my ears will perk up and send this shock straight to my brain to focus on the podcast.

For this podcast, it was none other than Gary Vaynerchuck. Gary (as explained on, is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of VaynerMedia, a full-service digital agency servicing Fortune 500 clients across the company’s 4 locations. I highly recommend if you are trying to market your business or just need advice on crushing daily work life, he’s the man to listen to.

Gary’s podcast was on “5 Tips To Help Teachers and Professors.” He emphasizes the fact of putting passion and caring into the idea of teaching their students to the best of their ability. He dislikes when teachers become “robotic” and giving a checkmark to the student that pass an exam because he or she regurgitated information on an exam because it is required by the higher up thereof.

The idea of not following the playbook of the curriculum of the public high school is not practical for students of the generation. Gary suggested to a teacher that called in during a live Q&A to grab a student that is willing to learn more than just reading a book and be able to grow their own experiences by giving them the “wink.” He put it in a way where the “wink” made by the teacher gives the student the knowledge that the teacher understands the student’s situation of being required to complete the said class. The teacher does know however the student has much more potential than the grade he or she received during the class and wants to reach that untapped potential he or she would not be able to in the classroom.

It made me realize that I was given the “wink” back in high school. As I reflected for the short five minutes, I realized how much that has changed my life.

The teacher’s name is Shawn. Shawn was at the time a technology education teacher and manager of the theater at my high school. He would teach metal tech, drafting, graphic design, and television productions.

Honesdale High School Semi-Formal
Posing after being crowned semi-formal prince with Shawn and his wife, Becky.

For those of you who do not know, my love and interest for communications really lit on fire when I entered my freshmen year into high school. I was fortunate enough to get into his TV productions course my first semester. There, we learned the process of production, how to edit, how to script write, etc.. It was truly indeed a class I will not forget. Next semester, however, I was no longer in that class.

During the second semester one morning, my strict homeroom teacher told me that I needed to see Shawn during homeroom. It was a sigh of relief of the fact that I got out of homeroom. I went to Shawn and he pitched me the idea of doing an independent study for the next three years of high school. This way, I can sharpen my skills in video editing and also learn more about television productions and communications in general. I said yes without even hesitating.

Shawn gave me the opportunity to grow. He knew there was potential for growing the interest and honing my skill. Overall, he cared about my progress. It was more than just reading a bunch of chapters and seeing if I got all ten questions right on a quiz. He cared if I actually cared about what I learned.

Shawn and I developed a great relationship those next three years. I still keep the letter of recommendation with me for when he wrote it when I applied for colleges to this day. He was there for me for the good times such as getting the television studio named after me. Ironic how I was first timid in that room, to then bringing guests and people into the room and running the equipment without missing a beat. He also has been with me through the bad such as supporting me during an accident I had one morning commute to school. I didn’t even get a chance to find him, he was there waiting for me as soon as I got in the door.

A blurry yet important picture the last time Shawn and I worked together when I was still in high school

To this “wink” I have received, It’s important to advocate for those who surround you not just because you have to be with them every day, but that’s what I think people should do more often. I am not recommending all co-workers or teachers and students to gather around and sing Kumbaya. I think we need to steer off the beaten path and give the younger generation the opportunity to learn differently or strengthen what their true potential stands for.

I also think that it is important to not grade a student based on how well he or she does in the class. Maybe a student hates science but loves English. We indeed need both professions, but the student doesn’t need to be proficient in both of them.

A wink takes less than a second to do, but will benefit someone for the rest of their life.

Shawn is not just a teacher, he is a genuine person. He just doesn’t “do” his job to get the paycheck at the end of the week. Shawn is hoping to bring the new leaders and people who will make a difference in the world to the next level.

So if you’re reading this at all Shawn, thank you (and no, thank you).

Contact Mike Gombita