The greatest teachers pass along our best values
For the Nevada Appeal
G reat teachers are the transmitters
of our values and the keepers of
our culture. Some flawed teachers disappoint us immensely, but most teachers are fantastic and the greatest of them we recognize as invaluable.
Phil Altick and Fred Samia provided testimony to the power of outstanding teachers; our communities are forever enriched.
On Dec. 30 I wrote about the loss of my friend Dr. Phil Altick, an internationally renowned UNR physics professor. Within three weeks I lost another friend, Fred Samia (Sam). Both men were gifted public school teachers.
Fred Samia had been a friend for 52 years; he was my college roommate; we were Korean War veterans. We had experienced the joys and tragedies of life in the same frame of time ” the celebration of our marriages, the birth of our children, the marriages of our children, the birth of our grand children, and the joy of talking about politics, good books, music, teaching and the magic of words.
Sam was a public school teacher; he loved his students, his teaching and words.
Sam was a teacher for more than 30 years in high schools in Long Beach, Calif. But he’s also had an impact on Northern Nevada. Many of his students found their way to Northern Nevada and will be sorry to hear of the death of this wonderful teacher.
Sam and I started teaching together in 1959. I left Long Beach in 1963 to teach English in Turkey as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Sam stayed in Long Beach and taught high school English, giving a generation of young men and women the gift of great literature, correct grammar, precise writing and the power of civility.
He was a product of the public schools in Massachusetts and he gave his gift of teaching and learning back to his students in California. It was the perfect gift, and it has benefited all.
Susan and I attended a concert recently in Reno. We were in our seats next to Shirley Altick, Dr. Altick’s widow. Phil Altick loved music; so did Fred Samia. As the sounds filled the concert hall, I could sense my friends approving the sonorous resonance of the instruments, punctuating the Schumann concerto with grace and beauty. Such is the power of music. In life Phil and Sam, as gifted teachers, would have used the lessons of the music to help their students understand the complexity of life.
All teachers have the chance to improve our lives. These two men certainly did.
Fred Samia and Phil Altick did not know each other, but had they met in life it would have been an instant friendship. They both voted for Barack Obama and would have been sad to miss the poetry, music and grace of the language pulsing through President Obama’s inaugural address.
Both Phil Altick and Fred Samia, as outstanding public school teachers, were captivated by the power of rational thought; they both loved language, teaching and music. Their greatness passes on to their students in the tradition of gifted teaching.
Our greatest public school teachers provide the foundation for humane, civil and thoughtful life and forever enrich our lives and the lives of our children. Let’s treasure and support all of our teachers during these difficult times.
– Dr. Eugene T. Paslov, former Nevada Superintendent of Schools, is a board member for Silver State Charter High School.