Submitted by Bill Lehman
Q: What was your primary career and what did you love about it?
A: From my early high school days, I wanted to be a teacher. Inspired by several of my teachers then, Mrs. Garrison, an English teacher, and Forrest Shane, band and chorus, I wanted to be a band teacher. Went to Kansas City University as a music major, but got turned on to English studies. I began teaching high school English in l956 and continued through l968 when I went into administration, again inspired by several wonderful principals along the way. I was a high school administrator for thirty-three years, but I always considered myself a teacher. I loved seeing in students their potential and then planning strategies to help them achieve them.
Q: When you retired, did you feel ‘finished’ or, for you, was there still something left to do?
A: Actually, I retired three times. I retired from the principalship in 2002. But a friend offered me a teaching job in reading so I taught for three more years. Retired again and shortly after went back to the school from which I retired to teach English for three more years. I have always felt that I had “more to do.” and I have continuously volunteered my services as an escort at the V.A. Medical Center.
Q: What inspires you and why?
A: I have always been inspired by greatness. In high school, my band teacher inspired me to want to be a music teacher because he always encouraged us to try out different instruments, letting us change to another instrument when we were able to play at a 3rd chair level. He challenged us to do musical theater: we put on a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta each years, this in a school culture which had not considered music a suitable occupation for boys. As a teacher, I had the privilege to work with some great principals. One, especially, was a Dr. Boyd who was principal of a high school that was resegregated after the Brown ruling: 3000 students, but only a handful of anglo students. He set up a modular approach to the basic skills organizing a team of teachers, reading, writing, social studies, and mathematics, to help raise the reading levels of students who were ranging from two to three years below grade level. He encouraged us to try new approaches, to take risks. I always tried to imitate him when I became a building administrator.
Q: What’s your advice for boomers who are about to launch their own “second act”?
A: Don’t close doors behind you. Be willing to step back into roles that you had considered below your desired levels. Keep in contact with others who, like you, are trying to find their way in a “new world.”