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My First and Best Principal

John W. Pinkerton


I started teaching back in the late 60's.  The world was very different then; not everyone aspired to be a star.  I was a dedicated young English teacher who put in a lot of time after school hours preparing lessons for the next day, the next week---I worked hard at it.

One afternoon after school, I noticed the principal sweeping dust and dirt from one of the hallways.  The high school  was a 1930's building which allowed dust and dirt to enter around every window and every door.  Of course, the boys and girls traveling in and out of the building each day added to the accumulation.

It may have been at that moment watching Mr. Giesenschlag alone in that hallway sweeping the floors---no audience---alone with his broom, that I realized that I was in the right place.

Mr. Giesenschlag, Wilton, was a local boy raised in the area.  He knew where he was.  That may not sound important, but it is.  Most of the folks who have been principals here were from “yonder” and had no idea the lay of the local land and, to their shame, had no interest in learning.

Mr. Giesenschlag was  smart as a whip, had a good sense of humor, and was humble.

He saw that the floor of the old building needed sweeping, so he swept it.  He, I suppose, could have sought out the custodian and could have instructed him to sweep the area.  I doubt that this ever occurred to him.  He knew the custodian, Mr. Kubelka, a good man, was somewhere in the building trying to do his part of contributing to the maintenance of the old structure.

This was back in the day before principals decided that they were “executives.”  I've had nearly twenty principals over my 35 years in public education.  Some were okay, but most weren't worth their salaries and most of these “executives” were worse than useless.

I worked as a teacher under the supervision of Mr. Giesenschlag for two years.  I always found him to be fair to everyone, looking out for the interests of everyone---students, teachers, and parents.

During his second year as my principal, he was asked to also serve as interim superintendent while the superintendent recovered from a heart attack.  I don't recall anything extraordinary happening while he was serving as superintendent, but at the end of the year, the school board, in their infinite wisdom, fired him from both the temporary superintendency and his principalship.  Being that he had built a home locally, he accepted the position of science teacher in the Junior High.  He was a wonderful science teacher to which many of his students will attest.

Upon his retirement, I seldom saw Mr. Giesenschlag.  I ran into him one day when we were both in the local medical clinic.  I was struck by how very weak and thin he had become, but I was also reminded of my admiration for the man.

I was lucky that my first principal was a man of character, intelligence, and good humor.  My hat is off to him.  Rest in peace, old friend.