Be careful out there

Government teacher faces debilitating illness, but continues to teach and inspire students


Government teacher John P. Littman talks to seniors Addison Rogers, Sarah Stark and Logan Snell at the hospital. Littman experienced a stroke a month ago, and later received the news that he now has stage four cancer. Submitted photo

Katie Biggar

Story by Eleanor Schroeder, editor in chief

There are teachers who follow a guideline. They teach the curriculum and only the curriculum. And then, there are teachers like John P. Littmann, who open their students’ eyes to other perspectives. They teach more than a history or calculus lesson: they teach life lessons.

A month ago, senior government teacher John Littmann suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. The numerous scans revealed he has stage four cancer metastatic melanoma. Currently, he is in rehab working to gain the use of the right side of his body again.

“I feel hopeful and humbled,” Littmann said. “Every once in a while [in physical therapy] we will get a big thrill out of me being able to move a new area of my body, so that usually keeps me going.”

Littmann says one of his main goals in therapy is to relearn to tie a necktie. Known around school for wearing a tie everyday, Littmann’s collection of ties is so vast, he never repeats one all year.

“I keep trying to justify – figure out how I got here,” Littmann said. “‘Was I not taking care of myself?’ I wonder. I talk to my students about the 10 most perfect foods to convince them to care about what they put into their bodies, but that didn’t prevent me from getting sick. I don’t think you can plan for something like this. If you have a stroke in your future it is going to happen. This is something I wasn’t planning for, but it has been an interesting wake up call.”

I feel hopeful and humbled. Every once in a while [in physical therapy] we will get a big thrill out of me being able to move a new area of my body, so that usually keeps me going.”

— John Littman

Littmann has been teaching at THS since 1993, only leaving for two years to teach in Colombia. This challenging time has shown Littmann the power of a strong support system and the caring community at Texas High.

“This has changed my perspective on the Tiger Family, which is a term our school uses for unity,” Littmann said. “[The administration] is constantly encouraging us to wear the ‘Tiger Family’ wristbands and promote the sense of community, but you don’t realize how huge it is until something like this happens.”

Many current and past students have visited Littmann and claim that illness has not taken away his drive or spirit.

“I saw him just yesterday, and he was so much better,” senior Olivia Parks said. “I saw part of the old Littmann, the funny animated storyteller. He was talking about how Mr. Zach was bringing him the papers the students were doing in class with the substitute and letting him grade. It was so amazing though because even though he was in so much pain he continued grading and working hard to teach his students.”

Multiple students say that Littmann used the time they visited to tell stories and information that he traditionally does.

“Mr. Littmann is such a strong positive role model to so many students at Texas high,” senior Sarah Stark said. “As a student, you can tell when a teacher wants to be there and truly has a passion for their job. Mr. Littmann definitely does. It speaks volumes that even though he was in the hospital he was thinking about his next lesson plans, and even gave us a quick lecture about civil rights when we visited him. He’s made a large impact on my life in the short time that I’ve know him.”

Littmann’s class is anticipated by every student who has heard of the semester-long project and lecture-style classes. Many credit the class to preparing them the most for college.

“I love going to his class because the stuff he said opened all of our minds to the reality of the world,” Parks said. “We grow up listening to our parents’ political stances and basing our political beliefs off of theirs, and because of him, I feel like we all kind of formed our own opinion. He taught us so much in just a short amount of time, and it’s so crazy because I still remember the majority of it.”

Senior Alyssa Kift organized a commemorative photo for Littman, showing the senior class’ support, as well as the community of TISD.

A group of over 60 students took a group photo last week to hang in Mr. Littmann’s room. They wore neckties and fake mustaches, in honor of his famous facial hair, during the picture to show appreciation for their teacher.

“I organized this picture to try to show Littmann our support from school and to let him know that we are here for him as he goes through his treatment,” senior Alyssa Kift said.

The impact Littmann has made is indisputable, and the students and faculty want to give back to him.

“The picture was very humbling and cheered me up,” Littmann said. “It was like bringing the whole classroom in here.”

Littmann welcomes visitors, and if you would like to provide a meal for his family, please sign up here. 

Below, please submit comments of memories from Littmann’s class that stand out or encouraging words.

To Mr. Littmann,
You have taught us so much. From the history of our government to how to get out of a speeding ticket, our lives were forever changed when we walked into your room. We are here for you in your time of need as your were there to show us what a model citizen, husband, brother, father and teacher is. We want you to do your best to get back to the classroom, but just know how wide the impact you have made already spreads.
Oh, and remember, let’s be careful out there.
Your students