Life Lessons from a Master Teacher

pdOne of our enduring beliefs is that every child in Worthington Schools should have a trusted adult or many trusted adults that they know care about them and believe in them.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a teacher, an office professional, a food service professional, a custodian or a bus driver. if you work in Worthington Schools your first job is to be a trusted adult and build positive relationships with our students.

This enduring belief goes back decades in Worthington.  Last week a retired staff member shared with me a piece written by her classmate Major Patrick Donaldson titled “Life Lessons from a Master Teacher.”  Here’s what he shared:

“I was among a handful of students in Worthington High School privileged to study under a master teacher.  The knowledge and skills he taught me are beyond value. His class periods ran unusually long, eight hours a day with a half hour lunch break.  The semesters however were short, a couple of two-week sessions during the school year and a much longer summer school.

This gifted master teacher’s name was Bud Monska and he was the head janitor of my high school.  My classes began almost by accident. I can’t recall how but during my sophomore year I learned that a small number of students were hired by the school district to assist the janitors in deep cleaning the classrooms during the two long holiday periods during the year and for a much longer period during summer break.  I researched how to apply for a Social Security card, and when it arrived in the mail I applied for one of the positions. I remember discovering that the pay rate was .90 cents per hour before taxes. Now in 1961 the dollar had more purchasing power than it does in 2019 but it still wasn’t much. Google tells me the minimum wage was $1.00 in 1961 and it increased to $1.15 in September of that year.  The part time nature of the job may have permitted the district to pay the .90 cent rate; perhaps it was because we were under 18 years old. All I knew was I had a job that paid me money and I was thankful for it and wasn’t about to argue about pay.

The summer session ran from early June when the school year ended to about mid-August just before football practice began.  We started work at 7:00 A.M. Monday – Friday with a half hour lunch break and we got off at 3:00 or 3:30 P.M. I lived about a mile and a half from school and was lucky enough to be able to hitch a ride with my father who was driving to work at just the right time.  I walked home after work. There were four students in our work crew and we all packed our own lunches. There were no fast food restaurants nearby and besides a half hour flies by fast. Even if there had been none of us had cars or even driver’s licenses.

There were two full time janitors in addition to Mr. Monska and four student workers.  Mr. Monska had developed an orderly system to thoroughly clean the entire building. We started upstairs in the newly constructed junior high wing that was attached to the high school.  One room at a time. We washed the fluorescent light fixtures, wiped the bulbs, washed the classroom walls and cleaned the black boards. The we scraped gum from all the individual students chairs and washed them.  Finally, we piled the chairs on top of each other placing them to one side of the room. Next we used electric buffers with special pads to strip the old wax off, scrub the floor clean with soapy water, then apply wax and once it dried, buff it again.  We then moved the chairs to the now clean side of the the room and repeated the scrubbing and waxing on the remaining floor where the chairs had been stacked. When all the rooms on a floor had been cleaned we scrubbed the long hallways.

Just what did Mr. Monska teach me that was so valuable?  So many things….

RESPECT FOR WORK.  Meaningful work takes many forms and is performed by millions of people every day.  Such work demands that we respect and honor it.

PROMPTNESS.  I learned it was important to be at work on time every day.  If I was late it affected the team I worked with.

RESPECT FOR OTHERS. While some may feel janitorial work is mundane and beneath them, I certainly learned much from Mr. Monska and the other full timers.  I learned floor care and how to use a buffer. I learned about buffer pads and how to fix the machine when it broke. I learned how to wax a floor properly.

LEADERSHIP BY EXAMPLE.  Bud taught us how to do things by doing them himself, then observing us perform the same task to his exacting standards.  He never told us to do something and walked away leaving us scratching our head.

LEARNING TO WORK AS A TEAM TO ACCOMPLISH A GOAL.  Most work required two or more people to work together.  We soon learned to cooperate and develop plans to work efficiently and effectively without wasting time and making mistakes.

ENJOY WORKING AND THE CAMARADERIE OF INTERACTING WITH OTHERS.  I learned to work and interact with others successfully. It helped me overcome near paralyzing shyness and being introverted.  I learned to enjoy doing meaningful tasks and accomplishing my goals with others.

I studied with Mr. Monska for three years; by that time I was making $1.15 per hour.  Many of my friends will recognize the names of my fellow student co-workers: Paul Jones, Ira Porterfield, P.D. Quick and Russ Cellar.  Paul and Ira were in my class of 1964 and P.D. and Russ were a year or two ahead. Years later my sister Susan once asked me how on earth I was able to get a job with all the ‘cool’ guys; you weren’t cool in school she remarked.  She was certainly correct about that, I guess. I definitely wasn’t a leader as they were and I was painfully quiet and shy. Working with Mr. Monska helped me to begin to emerge from my shell.

At our 50-year high school reunion Paul and I were walking down a hallway together after a brief tour of the school that we knew so well.  A wide cloth broom happened to be leaning against the wall. We glanced at each other knowingly. We both had studied under the same master teacher and together learned so very much.  The diploma I received from Mr. Bud Monska so many years ago wasn’t a fancy document. It was a simple handshake and a thank you. It means more to me than my high school diploma.”

Patrick Donaldson graduated from Worthington High School in the class of 1964.  He spent 20 years as a combat arms Army officer and another 20 years in management with FedEx.  He has a BA in psychology and a Masters in Family Counseling. Today he is very happily retired. He credits Bud Monska and his influence.

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
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2 thoughts on “Life Lessons from a Master Teacher

  1. Kathy Hamilton Moore says:

    Trent and Pat, I remember Mr. Monska so well. The simplicity of these TRUTHS brings tears to my eyes. I pray that our four young grandchildren can benefit from a Mr. Monska during their formative years. Beautifully written, Pat.

    Kathy Hamilton Moore, WHS, class of ’66
    sister of Jeff Hamilton, WHS, class of ’64

  2. Robert Gibson says:

    Bud was my grandfather..I’m the youngest of 7 grandsons, 7th of 8 grandchildren..I think I speak for all of us that we were in AWE of Bud..and I miss him every day

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