John Jarpe: Remembering a teacherPublished 8:58am Thursday, February 6, 2014
I attended a funeral visitation this past January for Harold Remus. Mr. Remus was my sixth grade teacher at Eastside School back in the 1961-1962 school year. I’ve kept in touch with a few of my classmates from those days and shared the news with them. They all remembered what a great teacher he was.
I remember he and one other teacher, Norbert Hauser at Niles High, were the only teachers I had over all the years of school and college, who actually taught me specific study skills. I learned how to get rid of distractions; where to position myself or my study lamp so I didn’t get shadows over the book I was reading or the paper I was writing on; and, how to remember what I studied by picturing myself doing the actual work later on when it came time to take the test. Mr. Remus also was the first one to give us the tip that when you’re taking a multiple choice test and you’re undecided between a couple answers, odds are that your first hunch was right. When I became a teacher I always made it a point to teach study skills to my students, and as an administrator, I’ve urged teachers to do the same.
After all these years, I still think of him as Mr. Remus, the same way I think of all my favorite teachers. I can understand why some Brandywine people whom I had as students back in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s can’t bring themselves to call me anything but “Mr. Jarpe.” The other great teaching skill my old classmates and I recalled was his storytelling. Mr. Remus was always ready to share something from his life, from his boyhood in Pennsylvania, to his military years and his time working in hospitals. I think some of us even learned that student trick of asking a question to get him off track from the lesson at hand. We didn’t care, and he didn’t seem to either—his stories were more engaging for him and for us than whatever was in the textbook.
As I left the visitation, my one regret was that I never really took the time to tell my old teacher how much he meant to me while he was still alive. If anyone reading this still has influential teachers you can get in touch with, let those educators know what a difference they have made for you and your students.
After all, many teachers teach the way their best teachers taught them.
John Jarpe is the superintendent at Brandywine Community Schools. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.