One of the most important things that happened last weekend was due to a letter I wrote back in December. I've intended for a number of years now to nominate my father for the Newton High School Hall of Fame, but knew he'd prefer if I didn't and also figured he'd avoid going to the alumni banquet to receive it if he got it. So I'd figured I'd wait til his 50th reunion, knowing he'd attend that one. But my superintendent came to me this December saying it was certainly time that my dad was nominated as he was very deserving of it. So I decided to do it. The rest of this post will be the letter I wrote to the nomination committee. (I've munged the name(s) a bit, but the rest of the letter is just as I wrote it.)
WMS (called “M” by nearly everyone) attended Newton School for 51 years: twelve of those as a student, and the remaining time as an employee. He taught a number of classes over the years including introductory physical science, biology, chemistry, and physics. He was in charge of the Smoke Signal (the school newspaper) for a number of years. He ran the audio visual department for most of his career. And with the help of Mr T [the original, not the guy with mohawk & gold chains], M introduced Newton to the world of computers, eventually becoming the school’s first technology coordinator.
MS was one of the finest science teachers in the state of Ohio. His philosophy was that science was for everyone, and he did what he could to encourage students to take physics their senior year. Several times he took teams of Newton students to physics competitions where they often won. In 1970, M started what has become an annual tradition at Newton: The Catapult Competition. He implemented other engineering projects over the years, sometimes having students build radios, other times having them make come-back cans. He always kept up with science education and science in general and tried to impart new findings to his students. It’s interesting to note that when M began first grade at Newton, there were only two kingdoms defined in biology. By the time he retired, organisms had been reclassified to five kingdoms. As science grew, so grew M’s body of knowledge which he shared with his students.
M was more than just a teacher at Newton, however. He often put in extra hours to help Newton be a better school. Looking around the chemistry and physics lab, you can see a number of devices that he repaired or built from scratch in order for our students to experience the same learning opportunities that “rich” schools had. He often went to the army surplus store with the superintendent in order to find bargains for the school. He kept the gymnasium sound system running for far longer than it had any right to. Even when he was simply a father watching his girls in the Christmas program, he’d hop up to fix that sound system if it broke down during the show.
When M retired from teaching, he still worked a number of years as the technology coordinator for the school. It was at this time that I, his eldest daughter, started working at Newton as well, taking his position as chemistry and physics teacher. As much fun as he was as a father, he was even more fun as a co-worker and mentor. I’ve tried to keep up many of his excellent teaching practices in my own curriculum, continuing the tradition of the Annual Catapult Contest, adding some engineering projects of my own, revamping the Advanced Problems in Science course to include new advances in technology. To me, M (AKA dad) embodies all that is good at Newton: innovation, ingenuity, thrift, excitement, and a love of learning. He made learning fun for his students and he helped his alma mater to be one of the best schools around. It is for these reasons and more than I could mention that I nominate MS for the Newton Hall of Fame.
I'm proud of my daddy. :-)