Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Judith Gardner’

America at its Best: Bob & Judy Gardner

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Celebrating the Accomplishments of Two Wonderful Teachers

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2016
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project

On an unseasonably cold and wet May afternoon, our Face of AmericaHenry Student Center_0016 journey took us to Wilkes University to celebrate the accomplishments of two of the finest teachers we have ever known, Drs. Robert and Judith Gardner.

What follows here is the speech I wrote to honor the retirement of Judy and Bob. It includes one comment that was not included in the speech, because it arrived while the speech was being delivered.

A Portrait of a Teacher

This is such a wonderful moment for Judy and Bob, a bittersweet moment for Wilkes University and a memorable community moment for those of us who have the good fortune to be here.

I would like to begin with a thought for this very special day.

If you combine the love and the caring hearts of mom and dad,IMG_0068_sm
the wisdom of grandmother and grandfather,
the instincts of a physician and a psychologist,
the benevolence of a guardian angel,
the high expectations of a successful coach,
the patience of Job,
the flexibility of a great athlete and the creativity
of a successful actor or musician, you have a portrait of a great teacher.

In my opinion, Bob and Judy Gardner are great teachers. If anyone would question that statement, please listen to the comments of some of their students:

Great Teachers

Judy was so helpful this semester. She is one of the sweetest professors I’ve had, and she is so knowledgeable as a teacher. She always makes sure to get the point across while making others feel good about themselves when responding. Bridget Galle

Bridget’s comment gives truth to what Albert Einstein said about good teachers:

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.

Bob and Judy have that supreme art.

The Gardners truly care about students and education. EverythingTruly Care they do is in service to education, whether it is teaching new educators or hosting forums for educators of all ages; they want teachers to be the best they can be. In their classes, they speak only encouragement and constructive criticism. Jason Walker

Jason’s words reflect the wisdom of Dan Rather’s famous comment about teachers:

The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth’.

Bob & Judy believe in their students.

Look For The GoodJudy and Bob are such motivating and inspiring educators. They taught me to look for the good in every situation. They taught me that every moment spent both inside and outside of a classroom can be the experience of a lifetime. They taught me most importantly that although we may come from different parents, homes, lifestyles, and cultures…in a classroom we all crave but one thing, and that is knowledge. Josefa Romero

Josefa’s thought is similar to something Parker J. Palmer said about good teachers:

Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.

The Gardners are great weavers.

They Inspire me

What the Gardners taught me in class goes far beyond what was listed in the syllabus. They taught me what it means to be a positive, responsible leader, an effective, caring teacher, and a genuine, honest human being. Their positive attitudes and unwavering commitment to education inspire me each and every day. They are the epitome of the kind of teacher I can only hope to be one day.  Jennifer Baron

Jennifer’s thought reinforces the brilliant observation of Henry Adams:

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.

Bob & Judy have affected eternity!

Great People

Dr. Judy and Dr. Bob Gardner are great people, along with being effective, caring, and understanding educators. I did not have many classes with them; I was in Dr. Judy Gardner’s class last semester and I am currently in Dr. Bob Gardner’s class now. The first day of class, I was happy to know I had such compassionate and inspiring individuals with such a love for teaching. They truly care for their students, helping them to achieve their journey to success. It has been a pleasure having them as my instructors. Summer Kubicki

Summer’s insight causes one to think about the profound words of John Lubbock:

The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn.

Giving students the wish to learn was the first priority in every class the Gardners taught.

I had the pleasure of having them both for my professors forWork Together different classes at Wilkes and also was able to see them teaching together. My first encounter with them was a class they taught as a team… educational psychology. They worked together so well, and you could tell that they both had such a strong passion for education. I was ecstatic to find out I was in Dr. Judith Gardner’s class the next semester because she made class so enjoyable. Andrea Circelli

I think John Steinbeck would have enjoyed and affirmed Andrea’s Comment, for it was he who said this about great teachers:

I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist… It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.

Kitch and I were blessed to observe the artistry of Bob and Judy Gardner.

When I asked the most important person in my life to describe Bob & Judy Gardner, my wife responded with these words:

They are decent human beings.

Decent human Beings

They love what they do.

They are open-minded.

They want to learn and grow.

They are considerate, thoughtful and kind.

They are gratitude people.

They know the power of two of the most important words in the English language, “Thank You.”

They are polite people whose actions speak louder than words.

For the past five years, Kitch and I have been privileged to work with Judy and Bob in their classroom and in their educational forum. Because of their kindness, we have experienced many extraordinary and memorable teaching and learning moments here at Wilkes University.

Excellence in Education

Judy and Bob Gardner reflect the light of excellence in education. They are warm, accessible, caring and competent.

They set high standards for themselves and their students.

Because of his musical background, Bob understands the observation of Dr. Richard Leblanc. In the classroom he is the conductor and the students are the orchestra. It is his job to bring out the best in every student.

Bob and Judy give truth to Charles Kuralt’s dictum:

Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students.

How did they do it?

The answer is simple.

They followed the advice of one of my heroes, Fr. Joseph Girizone:

Your work on Earth… is to fill up in the lives of others those things they lack. In that you will find happiness.

I think their legacy is beautifully recorded in this note from Jason LaNunziata:

I came into Dr. Judith Gardner’s class as a 28-year-old collegeThank You For Reminding me why dropout… trying to make up for lost time… I leave it with a deeper understanding of, and caring for, education. It has been a very rare thing in my life to find someone whose mere passion for a subject inspires me to be passionate about it as well…. being in her presence you can feel the joy she gets from teaching her students. She is truly an inspiration to me and an individual I hope to someday be like.

While I understand logically why she is retiring, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it breaks my heart. She is a personal hero of mine, and if someday I can become a tenth of the teacher she is, I will be a great one. She may never know the depths of which she has inspired me, and other students as well, and it falls too short to simply thank her. However, in my making it one of my life goals to be like her, perhaps I can continue her legacy. I feel truly honored to have had Dr. Judith Gardner as one of my teachers, and I wish her, and her husband, all the health and happiness that they so justly deserve in their future endeavors. Thank you Dr. Gardner. Thank you for reminding me why I wanted to become a teacher. And thank you for raising my own personal standards of what to achieve and how to teach.

Jason’s note says it all. I think every teacher in this room would agree. It doesn’t get much better than that.

At just about the time I was speaking to Judy and Bob and their guests, another student was sending her thoughts to me via e-mail.

Knowledgeably and Kind

I believe when teachers care about their students and love what they are doing, that’s when the most learning is accomplished. The enthusiasm Drs. Judith and Robert Gardner project in the classroom show they care wholeheartedly about their students and their love for teaching. They are incredibly knowledgeable and kind, and as a future educator, I have been really blessed to be able to learn from them. It is difficult for me to put into words how much I appreciate them, so I hope that when I become a teacher myself, I can take what I have learned from them and use it to become just as wonderful and inspiring as they are. Melyssa Laureano

The famous words about teaching that are often attributed to William Butler Yeats capture the spirit of Melyssa’s words and Judy and Bob’s teaching philosophy:

Education is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting of a fire.

Thank you Judy and Bob for your wonderful example.

Judy & Bob_0116

Thank you for opening your classroom to many different voices.

Thank you for giving an old teacher a new classroom.

Thank you for your priceless friendship.

Judy & Bob you are quiet heroes who radiate the light of America at its very best. Those of us who are fortunate to know you are genuinely blessed in all the ways that matter. In your classroom and in your life you have given special meaning to the immortal words of Coach Herb Brooks:

Impossible is just a degree of difficulty.

May Providence bless your retirement with good health and good fortune, and may you always know of our admiration, respect, friendship and love.

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Exploring the Journey to Success at Wilkes University

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Exploring the Journey to Success at Wilkes University

The Journey to Success

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Photographs by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2016
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD
The Face of America Project

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing. Abraham Lincoln.

Success Takes Teamwork

Thursday, April 7, was an unseasonably cold and rainy day. As we were leaving for our Face of America journey to the MartsMarts_9240_250 Center on the Wilkes University campus, the rain stopped and the sun began to shine. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was a good omen of things to come.

When we arrived at the Marts Center, the first three doors we checked were locked. We could not get into the building.

Just as we were about to check the fourth door, three men, Ryan, John and Gene, approached the entrance. With a pleasant greeting, they showed us how to get into the building. Once inside, Ryan and John accompanied us to Room 214 where they rearranged the tables and chairs transforming the room into a comfortable classroom environment.

These three men from the moving department represented Wilkes University with dignity and class. Kitch and I were very impressed by their attitude and their behavior. They reminded us of something Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Local, wrote in Inc. Magazine: The difference between success and failure is a great team.

Honoring Jennifer’s Request

Jennifer Baron is a very impressive student. She is working on Jenphone_sma double major in English and Secondary Education, and a double minor in Women’s and Gender Studies and Special Education.

She is a Resident Assistant, an E-Mentor, an Admissions Office Lead Ambassador, Vice President of UNICEF and Secretary of BACCHUS.

In her spare time, Jennifer writes for The Beacon, the University’s student newspaper

Kitch and I met Jennifer last year in Dr. Judith Gardner’s Cultural Studies class.

On this special afternoon, Jennifer arrived early to do an interview for The Beacon. When I asked her to help us set up the computer and the projector for our PowerPoint presentation, she pleasantly and willingly agreed to help. When all of the elements were working and the lights in the front of the room were dimmed, we went to the back of the room for the interview.

Jennifer asked good questions. She modeled the technique employed by many successful journalists. She humanized the interview with her first question. “Tell me about your background.” Her style was soft and relaxed. There were no “Gotcha” questions. She empowered me to be reflective, and she listened attentively to my answers.

It was a pleasure to work with Jennifer. Kitch and I are looking forward to reading her article.

To rephrase a famous quotation, Jennifer conducted a successful interview because she was prepared, polite and patient.

Two Successful Teachers

Just as Jennifer was finishing her interview, Drs. Judith and Robert Gardner walked into Room 214. As always they were welcoming and very personable.

Judy and Bob are two very successful teachers. They love what Judy Bob Ded_sm2they do, and they do it well. They are innovators. They started the Gardner Educational Forum Series at Wilkes, because they believe education should not be limited to the classroom. They want their students to hear other voices, because they believe those voices will enhance and expand the perspective of their students.

In the classroom, they create a positive learning environment. They encourage discussion, and they provide incentives that encourage students to do more than take notes and memorize data. They are available, courteous, kind and respectful to everyone they meet. They don’t talk about teamwork, they exemplify it in everything they do.

Because this would be the last time Judy and Bob would enter room 214 for a Gardner lecture as active members of the Wilkes University faculty, Kitch and I wanted to express our gratitude in a special way. We dedicated the lecture to Judy & Bob, and we had the dedication slide printed and framed. It was the least we could do to express our thanks for their kindness to us.

When William Arthur word wrote these words, he was describing Judy and Bob Gardner:

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

The Journey to Success

The short title for this presentation is The Journey to Success. The academic version of the title is Rules of the Road to Success: Life LessonsIMGTitle_sm from Experience.

I received the invitation to make the presentation in January, and despite cataract surgery and some health issues, I spent most of my time revising and refining the initial version of this presentation that was given at a Speed Networking Event at Marywood University in February of 2015. I will always be indebted to Matthew Parkyn for that teaching opportunity.

The final edit to the Wilkes version was made on the morning of April 7. Yes, you are not seeing a typo. On the morning of the presentation, I was tweaking my presentation.

Why, you ask?

The answer is very simple. I did not want to disappoint Judy IMG_8193_MEB_LFand Bob, their students and our friends who would be attending the presentation. Moreover, I feel deeply about this subject. It is something that is rarely discussed in a formal way in classrooms, and it is something that can be both emancipating and helpful to students.

By the time my research was finished, I had assembled a Success folder on my desktop. It contained 601 files and 29 folders. It was one of three folders containing materials about success. The final version of the PowerPoint presentation had 128 slides with 144 pictures and graphics.

In addition to the dedication slide we presented to Judy and Bob, we presented a framed copy of Jennifer’s slide to her.

Magic Moments

There were several magic moments during and after this presentation:

Looking out into the audience and seeing the faces of two of my former students, several of our friends and one of my former colleagues was a scene I will never forget;

Watching and listening to the students who were in the room, they were fully engaged;

Experiencing the joy of learning that was taking place, and knowing that the messages were resonating with the students and the adults.

Before the event, I asked the students to record their definition of success on a 3X5 note card.

After the event, I sent this note to Jason Walker and a similar note to the students who provided their e-mail addresses:

My wife and I are working on an article about the event, and…I IMG_8185_smread your answer to the question, What Is Success?

You wrote, Success is a feeling of self accomplishment, happiness and contentment.”

Based on the material you heard and saw in the presentation, would you modify your answer, and what would the modifications be?
What are your thoughts about the presentation?

This is the response I received from Jason Walker.

Hello Dr. Mussari, I would change my answer to (Success is) living with integrity, being surrounded by the ones you love, and a sense of self accomplishment. I found the presentation to be very helpful and insightful. It has definitely helped me to evaluate my choices, decisions, and values. Thank you for giving the presentation.

Those four sentences contained the best definition of a successful classroom experience a teacher could ever expect.

Jason came into the room with one idea. He participated inIMG_8220_DJ_sm every aspect of the presentation, and he left the room with a different and more refined understanding of the subject matter. What a moment. It doesn’t get much better than that.

An adaptation of the words of Peter F. Drucker says it all: No one learns as much about a subject as the person who is asked to teach it.

The celebrated American humorist, Will Rogers, gave us a thoughtful definition of success when he spoke these words:

If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing, and believe in what you are doing.

Kitch and I know that we love to help Judy & Bob Gardner and their students because we believe in what they are doing as teachers and friends.

Thank you, Ryan, Gene and John.
Thank you, Jennifer Baron.
Thank you, Judy & Bob Gardner.
Thank you, John Augustine and Mark Simko.
Thank you, Pam Bird.
Thank you, Bev, Darlene and Ellen.
Thank you, Sean McGrath.
Thank you, Gary Williams.
Thank you, Wilkes students,
Thank you, Wilkes University.

It was one of the most enjoyable and successful learning experiences Kitch and I have ever had, and we will treasure the moments we spent with you.

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