28 Aug In Honour of Teachers by Wayne Wardwell ’46
This is a piece Wayne wrote for his retirement home newsletter and for his son and daughter and Stephen Goheen. He attended every class but second standard at Woodstock from Lower Kindergarten to tenth standard graduation in the class of 1946. His father, Wayne D. Wardwell, Sr was the first dorm head of Ridgewood and taught manual arts (shop).
As a new school year begins, I would like to put in a good word for teachers. I was blessed by some great teachers. My formidable Latin teacher taught me more than an obsolete language—she taught me classical allusions and sayings. My English teacher taught me that “is” never, never takes an object. But most of all there was my science teacher and cub master who got me collecting ferns and beetles, and making my own pack and hiking off into the mountains of India, and the difference between a poisonous snake and a non-poisonous snake (“open its mouth and see if it has fangs” he solemnly said).
So, when it came time for me to retire from being a pastor, I accepted a position of teaching at my old school for missionary kids in India—Woodstock School in Mussoorie in the Himalaya Mountains north of Delhi. In preparation by son and son-in-law both of whom are teachers sat me down and said: “Dad, this is how you teach” and did their best to prepare me for what they knew better than I what I was in for. I may have taught a lot of classes at church, but there were critical differences to teaching in a school. In school you needed to know every one of your students, you needed to be able to grade their performance on paper and in classroom discussion, you needed to know your subject thoroughly and have the best of classroom books and supplies available. In India, one of my biggest challenges was needing to use computers when the electricity would suddenly quit almost every day. All this I had to do with a body 65 years old equipped with failing ears. But I survived, and I think I paid back a debt to my old school for the splendid education it gave me—at least partly.
Then, safely back in the USA, and easily handling the teaching jobs that came to a retiree, I saw a TV promotion for teachers in which Ed Asner (of the Mary Tyler Moore show) said: “Do you remember the teacher that taught you the most? Have you thought to thank that teacher?” And so, I searched and found my old science teacher Robert Fleming had just retired after being honored in Kathmandu with his own parade for reaching 77 years of age. Since I had seen him he had written the bird book of Nepal and found several species that were thought to be extinct in India. I told him that he and I were probably too old to go on another hike, but how would he like to go to Yellowstone Park in my canoe. There, in America’s best park, he could view all sorts of birds and fish and mammals. And so it came to be.
How about you? Have you thought to honor the teacher that taught you?