It was as quiet as a fraternity house could get. The ambiguous time on Sunday afternoon when you’re not ready to leave the weekend behind and certainly not desiring to think about what lies ahead. The only noise I could hear was Daryl Hall crooning something about the “kisses on a list”. It was the middle of August and for a recently graduated 22 year old wannabe school teacher, time was not on my side. As one of only a few brothers staying in TKE house that summer of 1982, no one would have ever detected any anxiety from an unemployed, college degree holder looking to start his career in the classroom. I had just completed my student teaching at Allen High in Allentown Pa., and beside public speaking, teaching seemed to be the only talent I possessed. The problem was Bethlehem Steel was going out of business and a new school teacher had not been hired in the Allentown area in the last five years. Still, there I lay with my head in the lap of Nancy Coslet, sipping a cold draft. I recall my mind being as quiet as it ever has been. Nancy was a friend who was going to be a senior at Cedar Crest College the neighboring all-girls college. We didn’t use the term then but we were “friends with benefits”. Nancy was a great girl and always looking out for me, but on this lazy, hazy, August dog day living there in Allentown, she was a about to end my moment of tranquility forever.
I taught two years of eighth and ninth graders before moving on to the high school in Autumn of 1984. Even though I had a couple years of experience, the line between student and teacher became a sliver. I liked to think I never crossed those fine lines, although I’m sure there are some with long memories that may beg to differ. The fact was I had close, meaningful relationships with both students and faculty. I taught students I was sure would go on to make a difference in the world: Scott Hughes, Regina Martin, Dean Bubalo, Mike Kiselak, and Darren Terry. I coached athletes that possessed grit and desire that any coach would die for: Jack Shaughnessey, Peter Tomasulo, Kenny Merklin, and Jimmy Doyle. What I didn’t understand then was the impact that these students had on me until after I left the stage. It was March 15, 1986 that I met a student’s sister who would turn out to be the love of my life and future wife. She was going to medical school in Albany and I was teaching in Pine Bush. We got a place halfway in between and still call Kingston our home.
Laboring with the requirement for teachers to obtain a Masters Degree prior to beginning their sixth year and wrestling with school authorities’ regimentation and rules prompted me to leave Pine Bush in the spring of 1987. I left teaching altogether two years later. When I put the pieces of my life together as the years pass it becomes more evident to me that my days in Pine Bush were a fundamental point to the start of the puzzle called adulthood. I have a deep appreciation for those early periods of a career I ended up leaving behind. The community, the students, and my co-workers accepted me as a flawed neophyte trying to make his start in the big world. In the present, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t find reason to draw on my experience in Pine Bush. We all have precise instances in time that set the course of our lives. For me, it is nice to be able to pin point one such moment. Nancy Coslet had much to do with me going back to the Hudson Valley and starting a teaching career. The dots began connecting in the hamlet of Pine Bush. Our lives have a tendency to circle back from whence we came. Lately I can feel the axis spinning. Thanks, Nancy, wherever you are.
Author’s Note: More specific stories from the Pine Bush years to come in the next few weeks.