It’s not very often that you get the chance to let someone know what an impact they made on your life, with perhaps the exception of your parents, if you’re lucky. This is especially true for teachers and mentors you’ve met early in your education or career because you may not realize until many years later what type of effect they had on your choices.
I’m sure we’ve all had one or two special teachers who we can’t forget.
Saturday I had the opportunity to visit with one of mine, my high school journalism teacher, Mr. Bernie Feuerman, who started me on this path decades ago.
Together with several classmates who worked on the Monroe Doctrine with me, along with those who graduated before or after me, we shared our experiences, how his classes affected our careers, and offered thanks and gratitude for those lessons so many years ago. In all there were about a dozen of his former students who had taken either journalism or English classes on the Zoom call.
As the only one still in the newspaper business present that morning, I told him how grateful I was for, appropriately enough, indoctrinating me to the art of journalism. The joy of working on the staff of the high school paper prompted me to major in journalism in college and I’ve never looked back.
Mr. Feuerman’s career spanned many decades and countless students, but he seemed to remember us all.
In the 18 years that he taught journalism, his students never missed getting an issue published. His dedication to making sure the paper was published no matter what stuck with me.
For example, last year I broke my leg on a Saturday morning and was back at work Monday morning. Despite the pain and medications that made me a little groggy — OK, a lot groggy — I made sure that week’s issue was put to bed and things put into place for the following week before taking time to rest and visit an orthopedist.
Several times the visit left him “verklempt” a la Linda Richman (Mike Myers) in a “Saturday Night Live” skit.
He was genuinely touched that so many people remembered him and cared enough to gather together to share what a difference he made in our lives.
A short time after our call, his cousin reached out to us via email to share how overjoyed he was.
“This will be a very special part of his life history,” she wrote. “I’m sure he will look back at this very weekend, in part thanks to you all, as one of his favorites of all time!”
Somewhat ironically, I wasn’t part of the editorial team when I was on the paper’s staff. I sold advertising. But newspapering got into my blood and once I started writing, my focus switched and I haven’t looked back.
There’s only one other teacher I can think of who taught me lessons that I have carried through my career. In college I had a professor who taught elements of newspaper design, principles I continue to use to this day with award-winning results.
Marvin Sosna, who was editor of the Thousand Oaks News Chronicle in California for 26 years and later became my boss for a short time, taught the class. Though much has changed in how newspapers are designed and produced since then, the basics of how to make a page look good remain the same.
I’ve picked up other tips and tricks along the way from various editors and publishers I’ve worked with, but for the most part it isn’t the who that really matters, it’s the what. For me that means putting out a newspaper filled with important and interesting articles that you enjoy reading. It also means sharing what I have learned with others in the field.
I believe my teachers/mentors would agree.
Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 702-586-9523.
Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.