I semi-recently (1996) won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. (Yippee...) Along with the huge raise, yeah right, the Willingboro (NJ) Bored of Ed gave me, I was teaching Honors & AP at Willingboro when I won that, I get the privilege of sharing my crap with you... My eternal thanks to VP Extraordinare, Bob Trama, and Principal, Dr. John Wasinda! Thanks, Guys! I owe it to you! I now have the privilege of touring my little part of the free Universe sharing my meager experiences and teaching know-how with my science colleagues and brethren. It seems that I am learning more from other teachers than they from me, but. . .
Even more recently, I was awarded the, catch this for a title, International Internet Educator of the Year - 2003. Cool prizes and such! Got a new laptop, iPAQ, $10K, and a 9-day all-inclusive trip to Costa Rica with my lovely wife, Darlene! Can you say, "WOWZERS"? Classroom Connect is no longer around, so the link above takes you to a new guy's website. No idea what ever happened to "my" Classroom Connect...
Picture of me in DC being congratulated by then Senator Frank Lautenberg after receiving my PAEMST, Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, just before I spilled a beer on a
carpet at the Dirkson Sanate Building older than OUR COUNTRY! It was a gift to Ben Franklin from the King of France, Louis XVI, in 1771. MEGA-OOPS! I'm the reason they changed their policies about guests holding beverages while in the Dirkson Room... sigh...
Boy, did THAT impress Clinton... He even made a smart-assed comment about it during his little speech...
Basic Stats :
Where to begin? Had an uneventful childhood. Grew up in the typical dysfunctional American family. Three brothers. No sisters - girls never would have survived us 4... Dad raised us. Didn't know Mom. She left when I was 3. Dad was career military. I miss him. Raised on a farm till 11 years old. My job was to "thin" the feral cat population... Ask me for the gory details sometime... Fumbled through my informative school years thinking I was cool. Won a smile contest in 6th grade. wow. Was mediocre in sports (Wrestling) in high school - Middletown, PA. (Three Mile Island territory, if you think that's important...) Wasted my informative years listening to my hormones instead of my elders and betters. (Now there's a shocker, huh?) Went to college 'cause that's what was expected - AND it kept me out of Vienam for a while. Took Secondary Education as a major because it didn't require a foreign language (I failed 3 years of French in high school...) and I didn't like little kids. Math major for the 1st 3 1/2 years at college. Fumbled through classes between wrestling practices, pumping gas to pay the massive $700/semester tuition, and naps. Blew out my knees in '72 - mean ole guy from U of Alabama hurt me... Lifted weights for the year I was off the mats. Gained 100 pounds in one year, figuratively speaking, of course; Better living through Chemistry... Decided to also major in physics during my 4th year (my 1st Senior year) so I had something to do with all that Math I was supposedly learning. Lucky enough to find a great physics Prof in Bob Hartford. Thanks, Dr. Bob. You lit the fuse that thousands of high school students since then have hated you for.
Finally graduated after 5 years from lovely Shippensburg State College (now a State University) in Downtown Pennsylvania after being asked not to return to my original school. They didn't think it was funny that we placed a full-grown live cow on top of the dome on the Field House! (It was not only an amazing Engineering feat to get the dern cow up there in the first place, but they learned a little known fact about cows that only a farmboy from Central PA would know. Cows will NOT walk down hill in the dark. The Dean didn't appreciate that as much as I did... Even the farmer we "borrowed" the cow from thought it was funny!)
1st teaching job was at Francis Scott Key HS, Carroll County, Maryland. Went there on the recommendation an old college sweetheart, well, not 'old', but you know... (Thanks, Pam! I miss you... More than I can tell you...). Good thing, too, because Maryland paid a lot more than Central Pennsylvania. $250 more! WOWZERS. Of all things, I was hired as a biology teacher for a whopping $6910 contract. Had ZERO (0, zilch, nada, empty set, goose egg, the number of intelligent Republicans...) bio credits in college. Didn't seem to matter to them - they needed a wrestling coach. Superintendent asked me what I knew about a thing called Exo-Biology. I replied, "Never heard of it!". To which he replied, "But you can coach, right?". Said, "Yes". He said, "Fine. Your teaching bio at FSK." BOOM! Rubber stamped! Had a job! Coached Wrestling and Tennis. Had NEVER played tennis till 1st practice. Damn, I was a good coach!
Was left to the 'wolves' in the classroom with no leadership to guide me. When I look back on my MD years, I sucked. Made about 90 basic methodological and/or pedagogical (hate that word...) mistakes a day. Fabulous Master-Teachers Roger Steele and Guy Paterson helped plant the seeds for good teaching even though I wasn't doing it then. Thanks, guys. Was recruited to teach at Palmyra High School, New Jersey (Exit 4, if you're interested.) by a good Principal, Frank Adams. Was hired to teach Algebra, Geometry, and Physics. By now, I had a basic understanding of how good teaching was to take place, but didn't understand how to actually do good. Did ok. Coached Wrestling, Track & Field, and Cross-Country. Never ran a day in my life. Followed the runners in my '71 Jeep with lots of fresh water. (And a beer for me, of course....) Took a year off in '82 to collect what few thoughts I still had after divorcing yet another college 'sweetheart', Linda. sigh.... I was a jerk. Sorry, Linda. Traveled around the North American continent and made ends meet by being a weight-lifting instructor at the Center City YMCA in Philly. Kept bulking up. Nice refreshing break. Met the greatest folks along the way. Most of the travel, believe it or not, was by bicycle! Yes, I went across the great US of A on a 12 speed twice.
Came back storming! Hired at Delran HS, NJ, as a Math teacher. Was actually their 2nd choice, but the 1st choice got pregnant and turned down the offer. WASN'T ME! HONEST! Thank you! Taught Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, and a little course I instituted called Shop Math, a math course for the "shoppers". Had a good time with it. See Fond Memories of an Aging Teacher for a few select stories of my time in education... Joe G, you made the top one of the top ten... When the fabulous Physics teacher, Angie Ferner, moved up to be Sci Dept Head, I moved across the hall to have another go at Physics. For some reason, I had the right combination of Administrators and colleagues who let me flourish and grow. Thanks, Dave, Jim Duda (Miss you, Big Guy), Angie. Had a great run at Delran. Coached Wrestling & Cross-Country. Advised Class of '88. Advisor to a plethora of Clubs. Chaperoned 9 Sr Florida trips in a row... Tough job if you can get it... Did some things in class and for that school that would curl the hair of a parent now-a-days. Left Delran under duress in '91. New Principal had a Napoleon complex and thought I was Josephine. I learned how to burn bridges, and, I must say, I did a great job of it.
Was hired by Willingboro HS, NJ, the day I resigned from Delran. (The Willingboro Principal was married to the Delran Guidance Director and knew of my situation. It's nice to have connections, ain't it?) At Willingboro, I gave up coaching to concentrate on teaching - a novel idea - don't you think? It worked. The Administration was great; just sorta let me do my thing and backed me all the way. Did lots of crazy things that worked. Did lots of crazy things that didn't. Won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching in 1996. Spent a wonderful week in DC at taxpayer's expense, lots-o-cash, and prizes. Thank you, US Taxpayers! Landed a 'dream' job at Williamstown High School, NJ, in October '99! Brand new building, lots of toys, bells, and whistles. Administration actually made decisions with the kids in mind - another novel approach, don't you think? Steve, Dorothy, Kate, & BigDeal, and the recently retired Roger, do/did an outragiously great job running that place. Most of the current teachers don't appreciate what it's like outside the hallowed walls of WHS, though.
Was accepted as a NASA Astrophysics Educator Ambassador in 2002. Received word that I won the 2003 Classroom Connect's International Internet Educator of the Year Award! COOL BEANS! It carried a $10K cash prize, a 9 day trip to Costa Rica, a 3-day trip to the Big Apple to get the award, a new laptop & iPAQ from Compaq, and lots of hi-tech gadgets that kept me outta the bars for at least a week! As I mentioned earlier, Classroom Connect is no longer. It was one of the very first world-wide professional development groups and did a great job for many years.
After all that, I decided to take an early retirement in June 2004 and continue somewhere else for my last 10-ish years. Put the word out I was looking. Interviewed in places from California to Northern Yukon to Boston. Decided Connecticut fit my bill the best. Just finished up 12 years at Greenwich HS sharing the few things I think I know. Had plans to move to Alaska or the Arctic and be eaten by Polar Bears if any are left after all the Gore-Bull Warming hype or by rabid penguins that got lost on a northerly migration... You can't do it ALL. But, you can die happy trying.
Sunrise view from our front yard... Sucks, doesn't it?