On a quest for a sub­sti­tute for a day filled with stu­dents

A long­time teacher at Elmira’s Park Manor PS, Ted Frey set to re­tire af­ter 30 years in the class­room

The Woolwich Observer - - LIVING HERE - VERON­ICA REINER

TED FREY IS A mul­ti­tal­ented mu­sic, drama and math teacher at Park Manor Pub­lic School in Elmira. He will be re­tir­ing this month with mixed feel­ings about wrap­ping up his 30-year career.

“I would say he’s been a fix­ture here,” said Shirley McHolm, prin­ci­pal at Park Manor PS. “He’s been teach­ing here for decades. He’s been in charge of about 17 dif­fer­ent mu­si­cals or play pro­duc­tions for the school over the years. He’s cer­tainly been an an­chor to our build­ing, for sure.”

Frey has wit­nessed var­i­ous changes to the ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem, with his own teach­ing style evolv­ing over the years, too, he notes.

“When I started, I was very much con­cerned about the sub­ject,” he said. “The longer I worked, I think it shifted to more and more the stu­dents and the learn­ers. And those re­la­tion­ships – it’s re­ward­ing to see them learn. The light in their eyes when they un­der­stand some­thing or feel an ac­com­plish­ment, I think that’s the most im­por­tant part of teach­ing. That’s what I meant when I said I fi­nally got it right. That is some­thing I’ll miss; it’s some­thing truly spe­cial.”

There has also been a dras­tic shift in the use of tech­nol­ogy since he started.

“This re­ally sounds hokey, but when I first started there were Gestet­ner copiers,” ex­plained Frey. “Those are the things you had to make a mas­ter and crank it through an ink ma­chine. There might still be some in the school. Pho­to­copiers were just a new thing. So the tech­nol­ogy has cer­tainly changed over the years.”

Frey also saw the first in­clu­sion of per­sonal com­put­ers in schools.

“They were very crude, very prim­i­tive, and they ended up tak­ing more time than they saved,” he said. “I think we’ve passed that point; they’re to an ad­van­tage now. Ini­tially, it was like, ‘you might as well get out a pen­cil and pa­per be­cause they’re so slow.’”

He be­lieves that the ad­vance­ment of tech­nol­ogy, with de­vices such as smart phones and iPads, is both a bless­ing and a curse.

“The abil­ity to be con­stantly con­nected and the ad­dic­tion to be­ing con­stantly con­nected is a real prob­lem for every­one,” he ex­plained. “Not just the stu­dents, but for the adults as well. Even if you put the cell phone in the desk, in the locker, or on top of the desk and it’s turned off, and you give every­one the same exam. With con­trol groups and ev­ery­thing. And the closer you are in prox­im­ity to your cell phone, the poorer you per­form on your test. So even if it’s turned off, it’s still such a large part of our con­scious­ness and we’re de­vot­ing so much of our en­ergy try­ing to ig­nore it that we can’t do as well as we’re ca­pa­ble of. I think that goes for adults, that goes for all of us.”

His re­tire­ment plans in­clude wilder­ness hik­ing, river trips, wood­work­ing, and horse­back rid­ing lessons. While he’s ex­cited to have more time for a range of hob­bies, the rou­tine is some­thing he’ll miss.

“As much as I hate the struc­ture, you know how you say you hate get­ting up in the morn­ing,” he said. “But I’d come to school and if I wasn’t happy, within sec­onds of see­ing the kids or hav­ing some­one say hello to you in the morn­ing, I’m happy. And that takes you through the rest of the day. That’s some­thing that I’m go­ing to have to find a sub­sti­tute for. As much as the teacher’s sup­posed to be the one mo­ti­vat­ing the stu­dents, it goes the other way as well.”

[VERON­ICA REINER / THE OBSERVER]

Ted Frey out­side of Elmira’s Park Manor PS, where he will be wrap­ping up his 30-year career at the end of the school term on June 28.

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