By Chuck Wiser, I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels
Today I start Part II of the “Thankful Series” telling of some others for whom I owe gratitude either for deeds performed, helped with, or for just thankful for knowing them, or for them being a part of my, or our, lives.
Three people I taught with for most of my career at Alfred State College (ASC) were also my “Professors” during my 8 years as a night school student. As a side note I owe The Air Preheater Company (APCO) my thanks for having subsidized nearly all my college studies. I used to tell the 2-year AAS degree students that if they wished to continue their education beyond the first two years, it would be wise to get their first job as many or most companies have educational support programs that will pay for, or subsidize, their continued education. Continuing with the three professors, they are: Robert (Bob) Stahlman, Donald (Don) Smith and Charles (Charlie) Krebs. Oddly enough, the one I least liked his teaching style for, taught me the most, and in a way taught me how to be a “learner,” more out of necessity than anything else. I knew that I needed a deeper understanding of the topical information than what I thought he was exposing me to, so I really had to hit the books. In a way he also taught me how to be a teacher, in that, I thought his teaching style was ineffective. This teacher would xerox copy a page out of the textbook and then read the material to us. When I was given the privilege of teaching my own students, I would read the material in preparation, make outline notes of the salient points, and write the “outlined” material on the board in the form of bulleted lists, in outline form, and then explain, expand on, or discuss each item. My thinking, and thus my technique, allowed the material to be “heard” as I said it, seen as I wrote it, and reinforced as they copied the outlined highlights in their own notes.
Having said (written) that somewhat negative or personal critical description of a faculty member and not wanting to be specifically critical “publicly,” I will not individually identify the three in my comments about them.
For the first few years of my teaching, I didn’t know the material right off the top of my head, so I had to learn it, as I taught it. In later years I could write the outlined material without needing or using my outlined notes.
One of those three mentioned above had been a supervisor of mine at APCO, then became my professor at ASC, and then became my teaching colleague. He was like a “Dutch Uncle” to me and his teaching style, by that time, more closely matched a style which I preferred. His industrial background, and other exposure as a consultant for local manufacturing firms, gave his personal experience a more “on point,” “In depth” perspective than that of your typical college professor. One personal experience I had with that professor was scary and concerning. This person lived in a house that I would pass by often on my travels. One day as I was driving past his house I glanced over and saw him lying on the ground in his driveway. I did a quick “U Turn,” raced back to his house and found him unconscious. I knocked on the house door summoning his wife and told her to call 911. Returning to his side, I determined that he was still breathing, was starting to gain consciousness, and I stayed there comforting him until the ambulance arrived.
The other faculty member was unique in that your first impression was that he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about and it didn’t seem to correlate to the information being taught. Again, I had to “learn how to learn” from another teacher. I soon discovered that his teaching style was kind of like the preface of a book, in that, he was “setting the stage” for what was coming. When you realized that, it made sense. You had to be patient enough to know what he was doing. Tying it to a culinary metaphor, I guess it’s like eating your salad before you can dig into the meat and potatoes. That knowledge of his characteristics helped me to be a better “student adviser” during my teaching career. All of the faculty are “awarded” students, as “advisees” under which you helped guide them through college life and learning. When a student advisee came into my office explaining that they couldn’t understand this professor and was having difficulty picking up the material, I explained his method to them, and it helped. I never had a student come back to me, as they learned what I had earned about him.
What I learned as a student, and then conveyed to my students, was that you had to learn how to learn from each individual professor, as no two were alike.
Going back in time to the 60’s, as a high school student there were two teachers that I was especially thankful for. One was only with me for one year, moved to Wellsville to teach, and then sadly, passed away far too early in life. Katherine Toporas was the English teacher that introduced me to the love for the language, and the aspiration to be a writer. She must have sensed something in me that hinted at that. Had life for me back then taken me down a different path, I would not have had to wait until I was in my 70’s to do some serious (mostly) writing. Other than poetry and song lyrics, and a short stint with the “Friendship Volunteer,” I hadn’t done any writing.
Del Mancuso taught History and was our class adviser. History wasn’t necessarily my favorite subject and other than the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 I remember very little of those “historical dates” or facts. I do, however, believe in having to know history, so as to not repeat the mistakes. I think I enjoyed 7th and 8th grade History best as the topics were more “localized” and what I considered pertinent. One humorous story I will tell about Mr. Mancuso would involve his role as our Faculty Adviser. In that role he accompanied us to Washington, DC on our senior class trip. There was one young lady in our class that two of us (both named Chuck by the way) were interested in. While Sandy (no last name mentioned to protect the innocent) and I were walking down the sidewalk “hand in hand,” Mr. Mancuso walked up behind us and gently tapping my shoulder, reached his hand out toward ours moving his down toward our held hands. Knowing what he was attempting to do, I let his hand slip inside mine and he took her hand. As I recall they walked several steps before she looked over at whoever was holding her hand, presuming it was me, was shocked, and very embarrassed.
I wrote about my Neighbor Charles (Charlie) Young very recently, but he needs to be added to my list of people I am most thankful for. When we first moved to Scio, having been married 5 or 6 years, we were novices as far as owning a home was concerned. Charlie was the perfect neighbor, friend and surrogate father in some respects and was an invaluable resource for us. Charlie used to saddle up his pony/horse and take the kids for a ride walking around the field. One day, after another farm neighbor had spread manure, our daughter Kristin asked Charlie “What is that smell?” “That’s the smell of money Kristin” he replied. Attempting to verify my information regarding the horses name I reached out to his and my family, as I was writing this, but couldn’t determine if the horse’s name was Bonnie or Smokey. One family member also reminded us that one of our siblings had an allergic reaction, apparently to the horse dander.
Last, and far from least, are the three best friends, none of whom are still with us in earthly form. I have written about or, sadly, eulogized each of these individuals recently, so will not go into detail here. I am especially grateful for: Tom (Geyer), LJ (Larry Muscato) and Dave (Dunbar). Tom and LJ date back to the 60’s, initially as co-workers, and were co- “Patriarchs” of the Family of Three. Dave is a more recent friend acquisition. While not part of the “Family,” he is special in his own special way. Dave was the consummate musician. A picture may be worth a thousand words as they say, but if you match your words to music, as Dave did for me, your words become something more precious than what your eyes can see, and truly are what your heart can feel.
My good night prayer, when uttered or thought, always starts out with the words “Thank you Lord.” When I pray, I typically don’t ask for anything, at least not material goods, or for me, but rather to do so for giving thanks.
When Dave turned my prayer into music he gave me, and the rest of the world, a gift, more precious than either of us imagined. On this 2022 Thanksgiving Day, I end with that prayer by saying, praying, and playing Thank You Lord.
Thank You Lord
Thank You Lord for giving us the wonder of your love
And for teaching us to share it with guidance from above
Thank you for the birds on high that float upon the wind,
And for the children’s laughter that bubbles from within
We Thank You Lord for moments so peaceful to reflect
Upon the joy of living a life without regret
Thank you for the bounty you’ve blessed upon this land
And for nourishment life giving touched only by your hand