Everyone’s experiences with their teachers last a lifetime

By Alex Berger

The ultimate goal of the educational system is to shift to the individual the burden of pursuing his education. — John W. Gardner

On May 14, we celebrate National Teacher Day. It is the time to shower teachers with the recognition and thanks they deserve for making us the adults we are today. No other profession touches so many lives in such a lasting way. And everyone has a few favorites. My first was Miss Braunstein, my first−grade teacher — I was too smart for kindergarten.

It is a greater work to educate a child, in the true and larger sense of the word, than to rule a state. — William Ellery Channing

I still remember her kind and caring face. Despite a large class, she always made me feel special. I could not wait to rush out of my house every school morning and walk two blocks to PS 63 to spend the day with Miss Braunstein. From 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, she was mine. Miss Braunstein, wherever you are, I still love you.

By learning you will teach; by teaching you will learn. — Latin proverb

In MS 64, then an all−boys school, Miss Goldfarb, my seventh−grade teacher, introduced me to the joy of sexual pleasure. I still remember her beautiful face, her lovely blonde tresses and the thrills I received whenever her hand — unintentionally, of course — touched mine. Miss Goldfarb, wherever you are, I still love you.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. — Chinese proverb

In Stuyvesant High School, my list of favorites were too numerous to mention. Suffice to say, wherever they are, I still love them.

A high−school teacher, after all, is a person deputized by the rest of us to explain to the young what sort of world they are living in, and to defend, if possible, the part their elders are playing in it. —Emile Capouya

After high school, I joined the Air Force. Why? That is a story for another column. Upon discharge, I enrolled in City College. I was apprehensive. Was I still capable of maintaining a high academic standard? My first class on my first day was English I, taught by Dr. Wald.

Good teaching is one−fourth preparation and three−fourths theater. — Gail Godwin

Dr. Wald looked like an English professor should look and scared me half to death. On that first day, my homework assignment was to write a 1,000−word essay on life. My mother suggested I write about my Air Force experience, which I did. Brushing off my old Royal typewriter I used in high school — computers were not around then — I began typing.

Education should be gentle and stern, not cold and lax. — Joseph Joubert

I sweated through the entire ordeal and finally completed the assignment: a story about the military experiences of a 17−year−old in “this man’s army.” The next day, I handed in the composition and held my breath.

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. — Henry Adams

A week passed before Dr. Wald returned the papers. Mine was not among them.

“Mr. Berger,” he said, “please see me after class.”

My heart pounded. Why did he want to see me? Did he not like my paper? Would he give me a failing grade and throw me out of college?

To teach is to learn twice. — Joseph Joubert

“Mr. Berger,” he began, as my stomach turned, “I gave your paper an A−minus, my top grade for any of my students. Your writing shows intelligence, sensitivity, style and a marvelous ability to relate a story. May I read it to the class?”

“Yes, yes,” I stammered. I knew then I would make it at City College. Three years later — I attended summer sessions — the good professor was there at my graduation. Dr. Wald, thanks for helping me through a difficult period.

Education forms the common mind; Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined. — Alexander Pope

So enamored was I of teachers that I married one who, miraculously, possessed the attributes of Miss Braunstein and Miss Goldfarb. Teacher Gloria gave me an A−plus for initiative and resourcefulness following our honeymoon.

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. — Derek Bok

As Carl Jung once said, “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”

Contact Alex Berger at news@timesledger.com.

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