On becoming a teacher
By Dr. Robert L. Heichberger
It was early in June 70 years ago that I graduated from Buffalo State to become a teacher.
In the early years of my youth, I had always dreamed of becoming a teacher. But I thought, being a poor farm boy, that was a “way-out” thought. I knew that in order to become a teacher, I would need to go to college, and I had never ever even seen a college or barely knew anyone who had gone to college.
In fact, some of my friends joked about that by saying, “hey, you are a country boy, how are you ever going to go college?” And it was an arrogantly snooty village boy who asked “hey country boy, are you going to wear your farm overalls to college?” But, it was my rural school teacher who so warmly and enthusiastically encouraged me to seek my passion in life.
I am indebted to Miss Olga Herren, my teacher. I knew it would not be easy and it would be very expensive to pursue my hopes. But I was determined. And so, on Monday, September 8, 1947, I took my first step on the stairs leading into Rockwell Hall at Buffalo State Teachers College.
In reflecting on the times in my life, it occurs to me that the difficult experiences always pass to a tolerable level. And the positive, uplifting aspects of one’s life journey seems to hold steady throughout, as long as one nurtures them with possibility thinking. I have found that we are often faced with what appears to be insurmountable problems which may very well be disguised as enriching possibilities.
Hope lies in imagination, and in the courage to make possibility thinking into actual reality. I have found when you hear a voice that whispers “you cannot accomplish that task”; go ahead and accomplish the task and the voice of negativity will be silenced. For you see, resilience represents one’ capacity… one’s collective energy points… to move ahead under adversity and accomplish what you thought was next to impossible. In short, focus on the journey, not only the destination. For satisfaction is found not only in finishing the activity but in the doing what it takes to reach fulfillment. For achievement is not attained by chance, it must be sought with zeal and with diligence.
How do we keep our inner zeal alive? Two things, at minimum, are needed: an ability to appreciate the positives in our life — and a commitment to action. It is important to ask and answer these questions: “What is good in my life, and further, what still needs to be done?” For you see, the heart that receives much, will in turn, give much.
For me, becoming a teacher, was one way I was to able to accomplish that which I sought to achieve. This too, is true of my wife Elaine who is a retired teacher after 35 years and who supervised many student teachers from several Colleges. And our son Mark and his wife who are both teachers. Also, our daughter Lisa, who is a physician and, in addition to her other duties, is is a teacher of medical school residents.
For you see, when one can touch another person’s life in a positive way, it is an opportunity to enter human service. It may be by a warm smile, a kind word, a sympathetic ear, an inspiring word, and a helping hand. You see, that is exactly what a very thoughtful, virtuous, giving teacher did for me years ago; and I am grateful.
Hopefully, during the past 70 years of teaching, I may have been able to return in some small way this virtuous blessing that others have so generously and thoughtfully done for me. A fulfillment of a dream? You bet it is! And a special tribute to my teacher, Miss Olga Herren, who went to be with the Lord on the same day I graduated from college to become a teacher.
Indeed, “things work in marvelous ways, wonders to behold.”
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is a resident of Gowanda and Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the State University at Fredonia.