Human Interest


I am very fortunate. Throughout my life I was blessed to have many good teachers who influenced me positively, gave me encouragement, taught me right from wrong, and guided me on my career path. When one goes to school from 1947 to 1974, 27 years, one encounters a lot of teachers. Some stand out above the others while several others are easily forgotten.  Because they showed interest in me and taught me so much, many are memorable. It’s entirely possible that I was impressed by some of them because they taught a subject I liked and wanted to learn about. But maybe they were simply talented enough to enliven interest in any subject.

After spending some time thinking about these folks, I came up with a list of thirty-two teachers who impressed me and were excellent at their profession. Thirty-two is quite a few, but you interact with a lot of teachers over 27 years.  

What makes a person a good teacher? I think it’s mostly that they care that students learn. A good teacher is able to explain a subject so that listeners easily understand it. A good teacher is patient, understanding, and wants students to share their love for the subject. They take interest in their students. They love sharing their broad knowledge, and can be enthusiastic about a dull and boring subject and make it come alive. They are able to spark interest in any listener. 

The teacher and college professor who I admire the most, who profoundly influenced my education, and is my number one teacher, was Zoology professor, Dr. William Brenneman. My sophomore year at I.U., I took Zoology 101, a pre-med requirement. Dr. Brenneman was the professor to have for that course because he was able to make a boring, complicated subject come alive. Every student loved him because he related well to his students. His lectures were fascinating, and I devoured the information he presented.

Final exams were a very stressful part of college. Your final exam grade and your course grade were important for moving on to the next level course. You had to pass Zoology 101 to enroll in 102. This was decades before emails and computers so students who wanted to know their grade before transcripts came out could leave the prof a self-addressed, stamped postcard at the time of the final. When the prof had determined the final and semester grades, he wrote them on your postcard and mailed it to the student. In my case, Dr. Brenneman gave me an “A” on the final and an “A-“ for the semester. On the postcard he wrote,”This was the lowest “A” I gave. Prove I’m right.” 

I thought that was such a nice gesture on his part to say you have potential, now work hard and be the success I think you can be. Prove my faith in you is justified. I’ve never forgotten those kind words, and the confidence he expressed in me, one of 300 students taking Zoology 101. His words motivated and inspired me to get into medical school and become a family physician. Dr. William Brenneman is my best teacher of all time.

A close second for my best teacher was Miss Jeanette Shepard. For reasons I never understood, I had Miss Shepard for two years, grades 5 and 6. When my class advanced, Miss Shepard advanced with us—for four semesters. She had a gift for teaching reading, language arts, spelling, social studies, and arithmetic. In grades 1-6, the home room teacher taught every subject except art and music. Miss Shepard was kind, smart, patient, and took special interest in her students. For that, she ranks second on my list.

My very first-ever teacher was Miss Hibben. She was an elderly woman who owned and operated her own pre-school/kindergarten. I attended Miss Hibben’s for one year at age 4. She left a memorable impression because she was the first teacher I had.

My first, second, and third grade teachers are not memorable. My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Sauter, was memorable for an unfortunate reason. She was a great teacher, but midway through the semester she took a leave of absence and never came back. We students were very curious why she was gone for so long. Several weeks passed before we were told she had a malignant brain tumor and had died. That was very sad and upsetting for a group of nine-year-olds. Ironically enough, when I was in practice, her in-laws became patients of mine.

In junior high, our science teacher, Mrs. Tileston, was a science junkie, especially when it came to reptiles. She had snakes (2) caged in her classroom. She loved to take them out hold them and let students hold them. I remember her teaching about things snakes eat and demonstrating how her black snake devoured a whole a mouse. For the next few days, we watched the mouse (or the lump that was the mouse) gradually move down the length of the snake’s body until it was completely digested. Mrs. Tileston let us handle the snake as often as we wanted, but not until after a feeding. Her science class was unique to say the least.

In high school, Mr. DeBow (Eng), Mr. Stutz (Biol), Mr. Tout (Eng and yearbook), Mr. Clark (math), Mr. Beck (Eng), and Mr. Baugh (Business procedures) were my favorites. Mr. DeBow had been a Tuskegee airman in WWII, was very soft spoken and gave me an “A” in English. Mr. Stutz in addition to teaching Biology, was my varsity basketball coach. As his academic student and student athlete, he and I had a closer relationship. He definitely had faith in my ability to improve athletically, but I was under-talented and couldn’t fulfill his expectations.

Frank Tout was an English teacher who doubled as the faculty yearbook advisor. He was an excellent teacher and our yearbook earned a lot of praise because of his guidance. Mr. Tout also gave me my first real summer job working in a concession stand at a swim club. I had that job for 3 more summers.

Mr. Baugh taught general business, a course I really enjoyed. He lived on a small farm in Greenwood, raised chickens, and every day brought dozens of eggs to school for the other teachers. He was a real character. He was funny and made his business course fun, too.

Other than Dr. Brenneman, college was a vast wasteland! I hated general chemistry, organic chemistry, genetics, and physics, but I had to take them. One out-of-the-mainstream course I took was “Personal Finance,” taught by Dr. Silverstein. He demanded perfect attendance at his lectures so students had assigned seats and during every lecture, grad student proctors walked the aisles taking attendance. If you missed one lecture, your “A” was gone. He was a great lecturer and taught us practical information about finance, interest, insurance, mortgages, loans, types of investments, and many other topics. I had perfect attendance and earned a “A.”

Medical school was replete with great teachers: Dr’s. Shellhamer and Boyer (anatomy, and Neuroanatomy), Dr’s. Hubbard and Bolinger (Pathology), Dr’s. Battersby, Zook, and Ward (surgery), Dr. Heubi (Pediatrics), Dr’s. Watanabe, Pell, and Behnke (internal medicine). These men were all brilliant. They imparted more pearls of wisdom than I could take in. Attending their lectures, making hospital rounds together, or on a one-to-one basis, I never failed to learn from these geniuses. 

Dr. John Heubi was a 60+ year old pediatrician who had his own private practice during the day, then spent evenings at Marion County General Hospital staffing/overseeing residents and students, like me, in the outpatient pediatric clinic next to the ER. He was brilliant and knew routine pediatric care better than anyone I’ve ever encountered. He took the time to explain every case to us and teach us the right way to deal with childhood diseases. He was great!

My last two years of med school, I moonlighted at Community Hospital (now Community East) in the ER. The ER was run by four “retired” private practitioners Dr’s. Charles Seaman, Lyman Eaton, Howard Williams, and Rolla Burghard. These four docs were excellent teachers. Dr. Burghard had been in family practice for many years and knew how to interact with people. Patients loved him. From him I learned so much about patient interaction, talking to families, delivering bad news, and calming an irate patient. He had a knack I’ve always respected. I thank him for taking special interest in me as I felt so many of my teachers, professors, and mentors have done.

During postgraduate training (internship and residency) many other doctors influenced my learning and practice. Cardiologists Dr. Howard Horsely, and Dr. William Rappaport taught me the importance of completely examining hospitalized patients, especially heart patients, during each visit. They rounded on CCU and ICU patients twice a day because by doing so, they felt they were more likely to head off big problems. Dr. Walt Briney, a rheumatologist, was very empathetic to patients and asked every patient if there was anything they wanted today or anything he could do for them. I found that a very compassionate practice that patients appreciated. Dr. Warren Williams, a family doctor, stressed the importance of comprehensive preventive care, and made it fun and productive. Dr. Herbert Brettell, the University of Colorado Medical school family medicine department chair, had enough faith in me to select me for one of the best family medicine residencies available in 1972. Dr. Tom Nicholas, who became an executive with the American Academy of Family Physicians after a career in private practice in Cody, Wyoming, staffed our residency outpatient clinic. He was a brilliant teacher.

Teachers! I thank them all. Very few of them are still alive today, but their influence was employed in my practice every day. I thank them for effectively doing their job and being professional and ethical. Each one of them took extra time to share information that I could use  in my practice, or they helped me establish the foundation for learning that through dedication and discipline served me well. While in practice, I continued to learn something new nearly every day. I thank my two original partners, Don Kerner and Bob Dicks, for consulting on patients who were diagnostic challenges. I also thank the Jim Rogge’s, Buzz Hickman’s, John Batchelder’s, John MacDougall’s, Gerry Braverman’s, Bob Daly’s, Bruce Bender’s, Doug Johnstone’s, Karl Koons’, and Bill Fulton’s of the medical world who shared their wisdom and knowledge and helped me take good care of my patients. 

Think about the teachers who influenced your life, be it in the classroom or on the field of play. Thank them in your heart or personally with a note. Show them your appreciation, respect, and love. They certainly deserve every distinction you can give them. 

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  1. I remember well the teachers you mentioned at PS 68, Sauter, Tileston, and Shepard. Had them all. I remember Miss Shepard as a no nonsense English teacher, with particular emphasis on sentence diagramming (which I hated). I had Mrs Sauter for I think 4th or 5th grade. Don’t remember too much here. Mrs Tileston was a trip for sure, but she sure knew her Science subject well! I had her for home room teacher for the 7th grade.. Most memorable event here was a class picnic at her farm, which was located in the country somewhere south of the Indpls airport. I even have a couple of pictures of this memorable event.
    Another memorable teacher there was Miss Wayman, in the 8th grade. Many people mention her in the PS 68 Facebook page. (It is in Facebook if you are interested, get into Facebook, search on “Susan Roll Leach School #68”, then you have to “Join” as it is a private group. There are over 400 pictures there (click on main opening picture to get there – the pictures are kind of hard to find))
    Not sure who I would pick as my favorite PS 68 teacher. Perhaps Mrs Whitinger, 6th grade. They were all pretty good back in the day!

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