Saturday, August 28, 2010

Teachers Who Made A Difference To Me

There were many people who made a difference in my life but today I want to tell about four teachers who made a profound difference in my life and not by the subjects they taught but by caring.

I went to PS 120 for eight years. I had a teacher, Mrs. Goldman from 7A to 8B. I had to miss 7B in its entirety because of an operation which put both legs in casts and required rehab to learn how to walk again.
Mrs. Goldman would bring, to my house, the days work, including homework, which my mother made sure I'd do. She fought the administration to have me placed in 8A with the proviso if I couldn't meet the standards I'd have to repeat 7B. The first marking period I passed all the subjects but Arithmetic which Mrs. Gallagher, the Arithmetic teacher, gave me a 63 which could have been raised to a 65, a passing grade which Mrs. Gallagher refused to do. Mrs. Goldman fought my case with the Principal, Mr. Fried and they agreed to let me finish the second marking period, and with a little tutoring I passed. I graduated on time because Mrs. Goldman cared about her students.

By the time I met Mr. Grossfeld at Flushing High School I was in my Third Term and a bit of a wise ass. I remember him sitting in his chair, a raised one certain teachers had in those days, and he was looking over his new class. When he heard my name he asked if my brother was named Dominic and when I said yes his acerbic tongue lashed out and moaned that he was cursed. He teased and taunted me throughout the complete term. He knew I was in the Band and whenever we had an ASSEMBLY he'd point out my clunkers. He had a band in his youth and knew Dave Barbour and Peggy Lee and let me know that only hard work would give me my dream of being a musician.I can't remember what subject matter we covered, but I remember him driving home hard work led to achieving goals; good manners never hurt anyone and being a tough guy didn't mean you couldn't have soft feelings. He really cared about the students he was turning out into the world. It seemed to me he cared enough about me to push me hard and have a few laughs while doing it and for that I shall ever be grateful.

No matter how hard Mr. Grossfeld tried the best he could do was to get me to graduate high school. I had a miserable average and got a Commercial diploma which was no good for college and besides I was going to be a musician anyway. However, I fell in love and had to make a steady living and music wasn't a steady living, for me. I found myself in office work and my boss wanted me to take a few college courses. Whenever I met with college advisers they wouldn't let me matriculate because of my lousy high school records. I was taking courses such as Accounting and Contemporary Civilization at Queens College. Contemporary Civilization was a course that covered History, Economics and Philosophy. They couldn't cover all this in class so depending upon the teacher, you covered one of the subjects in detail and read about the other two subjects at home from the texts. One term I had a philosophy adjunct who taught full time at St Francis College in Brooklyn, Dr. Carpino. He could teach Socrates and work in Marlyn Monroe and make it all very clear. One evening at a break, he asked me if I was matriculated and I told him my sad tale about being blocked from going for a degree because of my past scholastic record. He told me a few things I didn't know about getting past the first level advisers. More important he told me that he thought I could do well at the college level and he thought I was bright enough not to be wasted intellectually. He said he made a promise to himself that if he had something good to say to a person he would say it as soon as he could because he never knew if he would get the chance to say it again. He cared, he was interested in the person not the system. Well I followed his advice and at night, some fifteen years, I got my AAS, BBA and MBA.I needed those degrees to be able to support my wife, seven children and a ton of pets. Thanks Dr. Carpino.
My last story is about a Math. teacher I had at St. John's University, whose name I can't remember. I had to take some sort of Business Calculus and Math was never one of my strong points. I did well all term, many dropped out and there was only about ten of us left to take the final, which we had to pass to get our Masters. I was running an "A" and felt more confident than I should have. When I got the test, I looked at it, and went blank. No matter how I tried I couldn't put it together. I did what I could and was the last to hand it in. When I gave it to my teacher I told him I blew it and just went blank. He told me something like I was one
of his best students and he couldn't believe it. I walked out of St. John's feeling failure for the first time in along time. When I received my postcard with my mark I couldn't believe it. He gave me an "A". He got to know me and cared about the person and when I got my MBA I graduated with honors, thanks to him.

When I taught at Westchester Community College for two years, Accounting and Introduction to Computers, I remembered all my concerned teachers. When I would test I would encourage those who got stuck on a problem to come up and talk to me about it since Accounting is a subject that can take only one error or misinterpretation to blow the whole test even if one knows the subject. I would gently lead them to discover the answer and most of them would finish the test with a grade of "A".  As to the ones that aren't cut out to be Accountants, I'd try to lead them to another major. ANYWAY, To all my teachers who made a difference because they cared about the person, not the system, THANK YOU!
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