Muncie Lost a Great One- By Aimee-Robertson Fant
The mark of a great teacher is this:
Beyond identifying and building upon children’s strengths and beefing up their weaknesses, beyond crafting effective lessons, possessing and executing certain universal skills teachers must have in a classroom, what separates the great teachers from the good ones is simply this:
When a child has grown up, does he or she ask: “I wonder if Mr./Mrs.______ would be proud of me?”
Great teachers are people-molders.
When I’ve accomplished an athletic goal or most any goal and exceeded expectations, when I have run a race and have been in agony but refused to quit, when I have stood at the front of my classroom after having given an *”inspiring” (probably only in my mind) speech that perhaps shares a little too much and lasts a little too long, every once in a while I will ask myself:
“I wonder if Mr. Yohler is proud of me….”
Mr. Yohler said I was born to be a runner. “Running Robertson” he called me. So I ran.
He said I was going to be a great writer. So I wrote.
He said to never again wear that giant bow (that he said looked like a helicopter that had come to take me away) in my hair. So I didn’t. (Ever again)
Mr. Yohler was my 5th/6th grade teacher and track coach. Ever since I was 10-years old, he was the encouraging voice (or in some cases, the “What were you thinking?” voice) in the back of my mind and my brothers’ and sister’s minds (if I may speak on their behalf).
He just passed away; Quietly and without pomp and circumstance.
Mr. Yohler, the teacher, taught at North View Elementary school for many years, among other schools. He had all but one of my siblings. We all saw him as a super-human. Indestructible, in his perfectly-taylored bell-bottoms. He developed a mini-economy in his classroom in which we could create goods, sell/buy them and earn real money through our academic performance. He was a Social Studies guru. He held competitive “horse-races” on paper (but with his commentator second-by-second narration). He was anti-drama, anti-whining, and pro-positive reinforcement (or as he called it: bribery).
He would never admit it, but he had a few tricks up his sleeve. He was “magic”.
Pete Yohler, the man, was a dad, basketball fanatic, a coach, a spirits entrepreneur, and frequently poked fun at himself for having been married 5 times. The flaws and his self-deprecation were the very things that drew us in.
The only way I can honor and pay tribute to the teacher and the man, whose voice I can take with me where-ever I go, is to share with everyone who is reading this right now- those who were lucky enough to have known him and those who were not, that he was a people-molder, a mirror, a visionary, an encourager, but most importantly- he was a realist, and he didn’t let someone skate when he was disappointed in them. Perhaps that is the greatest gift we can give to our children and students- letting them know they can do (and are capable) of doing better, of trying harder…. of being great.
And he was pretty great.
He will be terribly missed.