By Ron Gawel
The year was 1957 and the start of my real education truly began.
As a first-grader at Hyde Park School in Niagara Falls I vividly and happily remember the kind, compassionate Mrs. Dorothy Kramer, who will take credit for being the first one responsible for teaching me how to read, introducing me to the characters of Dick and Jane and Sally and their beloved frolicking pets, Spot and Puff.
Meeting these characters helped me to grasp what a story was and made me aware that reading would play an important part in my future.
There would be other teachers through the years who would follow the lead of Mrs. Kramer, sharing their love of learning with me. Among them I fondly remember and must mention the wonderful Mary Donahue, Jane Hibscher, Adele Robinson and Ann McCabe, who would each make learning special.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to those people who played significant roles in our young lives, some of whom we may have even secretly despised for all those in-class hassles and scads of homework they assigned.
I am talking about all those knowledgeable instructors each of us had in the 13-plus years we unknowingly spent being shaped into responsible, caring young adults and respectable citizens.
Now as a maturing senior adult, to think about all I picked up in school is really quite staggering. I shudder at thinking where I’d be today without the fine-tuning I was given by these so very important individuals that I owe so much to.
Hyde Park Elementary, Gaskill Junior and Niagara Falls High School stand forever tall now in my mind as safe haven places that guided me down the right path of making something of myself. They were places of refuge where tremendous learning opportunities became a very real and memorable thing.
The majority of the time, patience, warmth, understanding and a genuine sense of caring along with firm but kind discipline and good old-fashioned teaching dynamics came my way as did wisdom and the formation of beliefs, values and ideals that taught and molded me from the earliest years.
I was lucky. The majority of teachers I was randomly given came through for me, each offering their own blend of academic acuity and methodology which left a not to be forgotten imprint on my brain and in some cases my heart and soul.
Today I pay homage to these people and thank them wherever they may be for making learning and life more meaningful and complete. Next to my parents, I owe them everything.
There were also physical education coaches who in their own rough and tumble, but always understanding and compassionate methods introduced me to teamwork, fair play, proper discipline, sportsmanlike conduct, giving it my all and how to gracefully accept defeat.
To all these teachers of a long ago era, I say thanks for the memories, for helping give what they did to make me the man I’ve become. I’ve taken a bit of all of them along with me on my life’s journey.
Ron Gawel, who lives in Niagara Falls, says his love of books began with Dick and Jane.