For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
April 13, 2006 - O'Hern is Just" a Teacher "
Several years ago, I was visited by Duane, a friend of mine from back in Illinois. Before I came to Colorado, Duane and I worked together in a group called Illinois Writers, Inc. -- a motley crew of poets from the central part of the state. In his day job, Duane is a community college administrator.
We were visiting about important early influences in our lives. Duane started talking about one of his teachers back in elementary school. "Dr. O'Hern was incredible!" he said. "He's why I became an educator."
"Interesting!" I replied. "We have a Dr. O'Hern who writes a column for the local paper. Come to think of it, he is from Illinois, but I think he was a superintendent."
I dug up a paper, Duane looked at O'Hern's picture, and said, "It's him!"
So we went over to visit Dr. O'Hern, and Duane got to see what had become of one of his favorite teachers.
Recently, O'Hern published a book on much the same theme. It's called "Just a Teacher: How One Person CAN Make a Difference."
A good deal of the book, as you might expect, has to do with O'Hern's experience with public education. Yes, he was a teacher. He was also a principal. He wasn't a superintendent, but he ran for, and handily won election to, the Board of Education in Galesburg, Illinois.
These days, O'Hern spends every day at either Sand Creek or Eagle Ridge Elementary schools as a Senior Volunteer. The children are lucky to have access to an ace geographer.
Along the way, he's gathered some opinions, and sometimes, some strong ones. For instance, he starts one sentence, "When Colorado began its CSAP program (Colorado Student Assessment Program, or 'C-Crap' as I prefer to call it)...."
But he also does something of inestimable value for this community. He presents slices of the history of Douglas County Schools. Some of that history is from a hundred years ago.
But even more interesting to me is the recent past. O'Hern was a close observer of a lot of former Douglas County School District players: Superintendent Rick O'Connell, former Assistant Superintendents Pat Grippe and Bill Reimer, Denny Hill, the former District long range planner, and many other principals, teachers, volunteers, and more.
Douglas County has grown so fast that it's easy to forget that just a few years ago, things were very different in this county. O'Hern manages to give a vivid sense of those times as a contemporary and participant.
The Douglas County Libraries have bought a handful of copies of "Just a Teacher." You'll find them in our collection.
O'Hern is an original, and this is a book with character. If you'd like to buy one for yourself, call 1-877-843-1007, or order it online at www.authorstobelievein.com.
Let's face it: O'Hern is right. The people who have made the big differences in your life probably weren't famous politicians or movie stars. They were teachers. It's worth remembering.