Sometimes, it's hard for teachers to know if they are making an impact, if they are touching the lives of the people around them.
Sometimes it's not so hard.
CurtisButterfield has been at Moline High School for the last 14 years, teaching environmental science and biology. For the last 10 years he's been the freshman/sophomore coach for the academic team and serves as the advisor for the school's science club.
On Nov. 8, a fellow teacher found the 36-year-old on the floor of his classroom, conscious but disorientated.
"No one is exactly sure what happened to Curtis," his wife, Sarah Mason-Butterfield said. The two have a daughter, Clara, who will be 2 in January. Mr. Butterfield was transported by ambulance to Illini Hospital, then airlifted to Genesis East in Davenport. A neurologist assessed him and decided he needed to go to University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City.
"When he got there, they assessed him again and found the bruising on his brain had gotten worse and they elected to do emergency brain surgery. They removed a portion of his skull to allow his brain to swell unencumbered," Ms. Mason-Butterfield said. The pressure was pushing on his brain stem -- which controls automatic functions like breathing -- a condition that could have been fatal. "The surgery was the last and only option at that point."
Doctors told Ms. Mason-Butterfield that the swelling would get worse before it got better. Mr. Butterfield was sedated and doctors put in a breathing tube.
"The amazing part of this is even at the peak (of the swelling) his function was improving," she said. "He could move his arms and legs, give a thumbs-up. I played one of his favorite songs and he was drumming with both hands on his chest, completely in sync with the song. He couldn't open his yes, but I knew he was in there."
Mr. Butterfield was in Iowa City for five weeks. From there he was transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where his rehabilitation continues.
"He has a physical therapist and an occupational therapist, and a doctor who oversees everything," his wife said. "They all have the same goals for him: getting him strong, working on his balance and walking.
"Brain injuries can take a long time to recover from. Progress is a day-to-day thing and this is still considered very early in his recovery."
Ms. Mason-Butterfield said doctors have been very impressed with the progress her husband has made to date, a good sign for his overall recovery.
"The thing I've said is I don't expect anything but hope," she said.
Ms. Mason-Butterfield is a professor at Kaplan College in Davenport and has taken a leave of absence. She plans on returning to teach one class in January. She's been amazed at the response from former students and friends in the community.
"It's really been amazing, I've been out somewhere paying for something and the clerk will say, 'Oh, are you related to CurtisButterfield? He was my favorite teacher.' " she said. "I had one of his students tell me he used to throw peanuts at her because she talked so much in the classroom. I laughed, because that's just very Curtis. I get a lot of really nice stories second hand, a lot of cards. Curtis has a niece in the first grade and her class made him a bunch of cards. They are in his room, posted on the walls. Just tons of stuff. The teachers and students put together a DVD to play for him. Everyone sends e-mails and phone calls. It's been overwhelming."
Several of his students, friends and folks he knows in the area's heavy metal music community are putting fundraisers together to help out. The efforts have made an impact on his wife.
"There's no way this would be possible without my family and Curtis' family and our friends and even the friends of friends who have pitched in and helped," she said. "I couldn't have gotten this far without them. The circle of support that has radiated out has made this possible."
Joe Kutsunis graduated from Moline in 2005. He was on the academic team and a member of the science club.
"The thing I like about him the most is he really asks a lot of you," said Mr. Kutsunis, who is finishing a master's degree at Illinois State University. "He never assumed you weren't smart enough. He always expected the best from you and always wanted to see you succeed. He was pretty frank, he never sugar coated things. Some people thought he was harsh, but he was real with you. I think that's the only way I can say it.
"When I heard about it, I couldn't believe it. Stuff like that shouldn't happen to guys like Mr. Butterfield, a guy with a 2-year-old daughter. It just shouldn't."
Mr. Kutsunis remembers early morning road trips with Mr. Butterfield and the rest of the academic team to compete at other schools.
"He has one of the quickest, sharpest senses of humor around," Mr. Kutsunis said. "Once we ate at a Beef A Roo and he got pretty sick, and that became kind of a running joke on the academic team, the Beef A Roo... He treated you like an adult, like a peer and when you are 14 or 15 not many people do. It gave you a lot of confidence. What Mr. Butterfield meant for a lot of people was a door that was always open. His office was always a place we would kind of congregate in. I was on academic team and in the science club; I never claimed to be a cool kid but he would always make you feel comfortable. When you were there, you would never have to worry about the stuff kids in high school worry about. You could relate to him. He's smart, into heavy metal music and kung fu movies."
Marilynn Andress worked with Mr. Butterfield on the Rock Island County Soil and Water Conservation District volunteer group, the Natural Area Guardians and through his involvement with the Citizens to Preserve Black Hawk Park in Rock Island. He was certified to take part in the guardians' prescribed fires, where prairie vegetation would periodically be burned off so the area would remain healthy.
"He was a great supporter of the effort and the environment," Mrs. Andress said. "His volunteerism also spread to his students, from the garlic mustard pulls, to eagle days. He showed them how they could help, how they could make an impact through his own volunteer efforts."
"He loves Black Hawk (Park). He volunteers there, he walks his dogs there, he can tell you what wildflowers are in bloom at any time -- he really knows the park," Mrs. Andress said. "We recently received a grant to do some restoration work there, and I'm sure he will be excited to be a part of that next year... He's such a fighter, I'm sure he's going to be springing back. It's going to be a long road, but I'm sure he's going to be back."
Sometimes, teachers can have a hard time seeing the impact they are making.
Sometimes, it's not as hard.
Sarah Mason-Butterfield created a web site to help keep friends and students updated at curtisbutterfield.com.
* A concert benefit for CurtisButterfield is slated for 6 p.m. Jan. 1 at the Moline Club,1530 5th Ave., Moline, with performances by bands such as Centaur Noir, Bent Life, Space Race, Is World, and Maylane. Tickets are $5.
* A taco night fundraiser sponsored by the Moline High School teachers will be held Tuesday, March 29, at Mulligan's Valley Pub, 310 W. 1st Ave, Coal Valley, with an all-you-can eat $5 taco bar. All taco bar proceeds will go to Mr. Butterfield.
* A friend set up a blog for more information on Mr. Butterfield's injuries and to donate directly online at http://curtisbrainfund.blogspot.com/.
Today is Thursday, June 20, the 171st day of 2013. There are 194 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: The latest interpretation of the conscription law is said to be that $800 can be paid for an exemption, in which case the person will be eligible for call ina subsequent draft; or a substitute can be furnished. In the latter case, if the substitute isaccepted, the person he represents is exempted for that draft period. 1888 -- 125 years ago: A floral concert presented by Central Presbyterian Church womenattracted a large crowd yesterday. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Milton Reed, infielder on the Davenport baseball club, has beensold to the Philadelphia National league team. 1938 -- 75 years ago: The State Bank of Rock Island has doubled its capital structure,raising it to $1 million, according to Lewis B. Wilson, president of the bank. 1963 -- 50 years ago: The American Wind Symphony Orchestra will present two concertsin the Quad-Cities on Aug. 6, performing from its specially equipped stage-barge. Thebarge, which is traveling the Mississippi River route, will be moored just off the shore forthe concerts. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Fines for overdue items at the Rock Island Public Library are beingincreased to 10 cents per day per item effective July 1. Fines will not be prorated onbooks returned after that date.