Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The leader of band has died

I found out today that my master teacher, Walt Scheider (on right), passed away last month. My thoughts are with his family.

Walt was an inspiration to me at a very formative time--the beginning of my career. He will always be among the brightest stars in the constellation by which I steer my ship of instruction.

It was my favorite teacher in the Michigan Physics Department, Lecturer Jean Krisch, who recommended that I work with Walt for classroom observations and student teaching. Her own daughter had been through his class. But Walt had never had a student teacher before. And when I approached him on the matter, it didn't seem he was terribly keen to take one on. All U of M physics teachers-in-training had always worked with the teacher at Ann Arbor's other public high school. Not with Scheider up at Huron. But I was tenacious and he eventually relented.

I remember being in awe of him most of the time I observed him. I was reading The Feynman Lectures in Physics at the time and thought someone should come out and document The Scheider Lessons in High School Physics for the benefit of teachers who did not share my good fortune of observing the master directly in class.

And I cannot describe how intimidated I felt when it was my turn to teach his students. Walt was very protective of his physics students. There were only so many minutes in the school year and each one of them was important to him. Time lost to a journeyman bumbler like me was to be kept to a minimum.

I felt bad about my performance knowing how much better he was. I was pretty sure his evaluation of me would include phrases like, "Ya know, there are a lot of career options available to people who know as much physics as you do." But instead he was quite generous and felt I held some measure of promise.

We kept in touch after I graduated and moved to California. The photo of Paul Hewitt, me, and Walt Scheider above was the result of a chance reunion in Rochester, New York, at the AAPT Meeting in summer, 2003. By then he was retired from teaching but well into his career as a book author. I recall Hewitt being impressed with Scheider's success in this regard,

I'm grateful for the relationship I had with Walt Scheider and will miss him. I hope that part of him lives on through me.

Here's a remembrance published in The Ann Arbor News.

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