News and Tribune

November 13, 2012

BEAM: A teachable moment

Local columnist

— Sometimes lessons stick with you through a lifetime. Often times, the people delivering those life lessons are teachers.

From Nov. 11-17, schools across the nation will take part in American Education Week, a week-long celebration that honors public education as well as the people who make a difference in the lives of students.

Of course, private institutions also possess wonderful instructors and staff and they, too, should not be forgotten. We need to thank all those who help to guide our children through the most vital years of their lives regardless of whether they belong to a public, private or even a home school.

Teaching kids is tough. Dealing with parents, at times, is even tougher. You’ve got to be a special person to take up the position. Not all who graduate with a college teaching degree might be right for the job. Just like with any profession, you have good and bad candidates. Nowadays, it seems critics only want to focus on the bad without praising the good.

Not today.

Everyone knows a great teacher; at least one man or woman who have shaped their lives and given them the opportunity to learn. Maybe it was the coach who inspired others to greatness, or the professor who forced you to expand your horizons and think outside the box. As students, most of us meet dozens of educators throughout our learning careers.

For me, Jeffersonville High School introduced me to some of the most remarkable teachers — not that elementary and middle school didn’t have their fair share. They did, as evidenced by my eighth grade science teacher Bernie Horvath, who still might be one of the coolest men I have ever known.

But there was just something about high school that made everything click. I can’t name just one teacher who influenced me. Too many have helped me become the person I am today.

Who could forget Dave Isaacs, math guru extraordinaire? I earned my first ever C in his Honors Algebra II class. He taught me hard work pays off. I also learned I hated to work all that hard for just a number and chose to pursue a liberal arts degree instead. Go figure.

In science, Jean Jarrett and Larry Farr showed me how to use the power of scientific deduction. I still employ these concepts, especially when attempting to determine which of my children is lying. In addition, Mr. Farr stopped at the scene of my first car wreck to check on things. I saw him and promptly cried. A few lessons transcend the classroom. The best teachers are the ones who care anywhere, even on a busy Jeffersonville street.

The humanities were some of my favorite subjects. In the history and government departments, Margaret Shea, Art Haire and Bill Wilson made learning about the past fun. While helping students to gain confidence, choir and drama instructors Leslie Rachel, Janine Herfel and Dan Barrett somehow also managed to teach us how to be true to ourselves while acting like someone else. Their confidence in our skills strengthened our own self-assurance.

And then there was my senior Honors English teacher Rick Neumayer. I found my voice in his class. Instead of feeding us information, Mr. Neumayer asked us to think for ourselves. There was no right or wrong answers.

In fact, he loved to present us with hypothetical situations. My classmates threw me off an imaginary life boat that year. I was the first one over, without a jacket. A “Lord of the Flies” type scenario never bodes well for the opinionated scrawny girl.

There you have it; my ode to all those wonderful teachers who have made me a better, smarter and much more well-rounded citizen. For one day, can’t we forget about the contentious issues? No talk about unions, or elections or tests. Just this once, let’s put aside all of those differing opinions and say thanks to a teacher who helped shape our lives. Kind words are better than a polished apple any day of the week.

— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at