It took me ten years to find my professional home – Northside / North Atlanta High School – where I believe I had the best twenty-five year long-run of any classroom teacher – certainly had the most fun. I bounced around though for a decade between three urban systems until the publication of this yellowed article pinned to my classroom bulletin board for the next twenty-five years. Note the beard that almost makes me look like a lighter-skinned Dick Gregory.
One day after work in 1974, a friend asked me to accompany him to an interview for a place in the upcoming semester for the Georgia State University Social Studies Ph. D. program. I did and GSU interviewed me too. They offered me a placement at that moment and I graduated in November 1978.
Earning a Ph. D. changes your identity – overnight one goes from being Mister to Doctor and perceptions of you are altered – more doors open though. Georgia State at the time was on the verge of becoming a great urban research school. I used my place as an Atlanta Public School researcher to test hypotheses in international education applications. GSU provided a supportive platform for me to produce a statistically valid prejudice reduction treatment.
I received my first teaching award in the Spring of 1978 for excellence in social studies instruction.
Sue taught in Vine City in Atlanta for her first two years, then became a Reading Specialist for the Gwinnett County Schools and later moved on to the Fulton County system where she found her greatest success and happiness.
I believe her special talents were first noticed at Holcomb Bridge Middle School working for Doris Robertson and where she received a Teacher of the Year Award for boosting reading and math scores.
Sue moved on to her greatest career success and source of joy, the twenty years spent running the Open Campus School on Mimosa Boulevard in Roswell.
Sue receiving 1987 Teacher of the Year Award from Fulton County.
Sue’s special educational pleasure was the production of the annual Independence High Multicultural Day. Her students performed a multicultural presentation using multi-media approaches – the shows were videotaped.
Slide from PowerPoint presentation used at 2004 festival.
Sue retired from teaching at the end of the 2005 – 2006 school year – her health was declining and she yearned for new pastures like writing a children’s book series. Her career was illustrated in classroom bulletin boards that after her retirement were stored in guest bedroom closets.
I grieved and drifted for three years after her death in 2009 – sold the house in 2012 and moved into an apartment. Naturally, I had to donate or throw out a lot of our treasures and the worst day of all was when I had to carry her bulletin boards to the street for garbage pickup. The semblance of mind needed to build a web site, scan her bulletin boards one square foot at a time, and place her professional accomplishments online was three years away.
My main motivation for the photo album series is that I worry that our memory of Sue is gradually dimming over time due to an online presence that’s far less than the real- life world she impacted. My hope is that through this online album series, the full scope and scale of Sue’s light, love and wisdom can remain a part of us for as long as there is an internet.
It’s been said that receiving awards and rewards may beget more awards and rewards. In my case, receiving the Leavey Award for Excellence in Private Enterprise Education sponsored by the Freedoms Foundation in Valley Forge, PA, started a ten-year long cavalcade of grants, prizes, and in-kind donations probably unmatched in the country.
1995 Leavey Award Winners at Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA.
I was very proud to be a part of this distinguished group of economics and business education educators and administrators. The $7,500 cash prize was invested in the International Business Program and student run Atlanta Caribbean Trading Company, ACTCo, and energized the program and business.
For more information on the International Business Program and ACTCo, please access www.arnoldheller.org/international-business-education/model-international-business-program.html.
In 1981 at Northside High, Mr. Brian Stone, father of Brian Stone, Jr., a student in my history class, offered me his support to help build the school’s Close Up Program. Close Up brings thousands of American high school students to Washington, DC, each year for a week to learn how their government works from close up. Our Northside February delegation was the third largest in the country that year and remained that way for the rest of the decade. I essentially enjoyed an annual vacation in Washington hanging for an interesting week with teachers from all over the country.
I am particularly proud of this group picture with Fifth District Congressman John Lewis, a genuinely nice man that I’ve gotten to know a bit over the years.
My first exposure to Soviet communism and East Germany was in 1970. I drove through Checkpoint Charlie and viewed a world without cars and or people walking in the streets.
I stopped in their historic bar and drank bad beer and ate ersatz food. I would return in 1990 after the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and discover that the beer and food were much better.
In 2002, I led a student exchange to Frankfurt and Berlin and visited the same bar for the third time in thirty-four years. The bar had been spruced up, the beer was excellent, and the food was gastropub quality. I realized how the world kept changing around this bar and it kept going, a true essence of Berliners.
I was a happy teacher, loved my work and students, and thought I’d teach for forty years. But after thirty years, the late Dr. Beverly Hall moved from Newark, NJ, to run the Atlanta system and turned it into a scandalous racketeering netherworld. I saw my best teaching gig in the world at risk, retired at the pinnacle, and got out just in time to watch the APS become a test cheating machine.
The Atlanta Public Schools, whose motto during my career with the system, was if it’s good for the kids, do it. I am proof of that slogan because APS provided me the freedom and resources to make it all happen. That philosophy gave away to a decade-long systemic mania over test scores that is finally turning back towards empowering good teachers and emphasizing critical thinking skills again.
Retirement presents an array of decisions; first, which of the four pension plans should one select. Plan A is the highest monthly amount but with no beneficiary. Plans B and C and D present three graduated levels of survivor benefits with corresponding decreases in net pay. Hoping to live forever, we both chose Plan A. I lived, Sue didn’t and I lost her pension upon her death.
Upon receiving Georgia Teacher Retirement Pension benefits, one may not teach more than half time for 49% of last salary. New insurance, medical, and dental coverages are needed. If also receiving Social Security, one may only get 50% – it’s called the Windfall Pension Benefits Act. Love that term.
Librarian Sheila Howard, the inventor of ACTCo’s best-selling Kente’ Rose, was masterful in organizing memorable retirement parties.
Sue retired the year after me – we were fifty-nine and fifty-five – almost as young as retiring French government officials. Sue had beaten breast cancer the last two years of work and was healthy. In my opinion, we were very nicely poised to realize the Golden Years Dream.
Sue and I are pictured with Wayne and Vicki Scheer – the four of us are at a Fulton County retirement party for Sue and Vicki and other retiring teachers. Wayne, an English professor at Metropolitan College (owned by Atlanta Public Schools), and I retired in June 2003. Our wives retired in June 2004 and Sue developed lung cancer the next year.
Vicki, a past member of reconstructionist Bet Haverim in Atlanta, introduced Sue to Rabbi Josh Lesser and the Congregation. She found a solace needed to fight the cancer in the lovely songs and music that is at the heart of the synagogue’s service.
Sue and I moved to Atlanta Feb. 22, 1972. A little over two years later, we were in Atlanta’s Fulton County Braves Stadium watching Hank Aaron thwack #715 into the left field seats. Pearl Bailey sang a bluesy anthem that night, best version I ever heard.
Sasha and I attended the Georgia Dome opening – stadium lasted twenty-five years.
I watched the opening of the colossal Mercedes Benz dome on TV – is it for the ages? Turner Field lasted nineteen years and is now Georgia State Univ. Football Stadium.
Atlanta hosted the Democratic National Convention in 1988 so I volunteered to be a driver for officials. I was fortunately assigned to drive DNC Chief Bryan Moynihan, a nice guy, all over the city and got an insider’s view of DNC convention politics.
That 1988 badge was my security ID – compare it to today’s digitalized security systems.
I’ve attended the Twentieth, Thirtieth, Fortieth and Fiftieth Weequahic High Class of 1964 reunions. The photo is of the Bragaw Avenue School group taken at the Fortieth.
The Class of 1964 50th Reunion was videotaped and is accessed on YouTube.
Thus, in a blink of an eye, did a career and a life pass into the realm. I am seated between the late Marilyn Molk Kantrowitz (left) and Marilyn Frank Jacks (right). Because I can only remember the names of about 75%, I will not provide names – don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Phyllis Lerman Zia, middle of bottom row, also passed a few years ago.