Remembering retired educator Bill Ruth on September 11

927-ruth-largeIt has been fourteen years since our nation was rocked to the core by the September 11th terrorist attacks. Like most teachers who went to school that day, I distinctly remember how difficult it was to ease the fears and distress of my students while trying to keep my own alarm and emotions under control. And now, so many years later, when I reflect upon the events of that day, I wonder if any educators lost their lives in the attacks.

In conducting some research, I discovered the story of one heroic educator: William (Bill) R. Ruth, a retired middle school social studies teacher from Maryland. After his career as an educator, Bill was working at the Pentagon as a Chief Warrant Officer for the US Army. He was in his office there when the building was struck by American Airlines Flight 77. He was one of 30 individuals on the ground who lost their lives in the tragedy. On the day of his death, Bill Ruth was 57 years old.

Bill had a long record of service to his country. He served in the Marines during the Vietnam War, where he was a helicopter pilot. He would later tell friends of the missions he flew, evacuating the wounded and the dead. As a Maryland National Guard reservist, Bill also served in the Persian Gulf War. When the conflict erupted, Bill was pulled out of the classroom and sent to the Middle East.

After his tour of duty in Vietnam, Bill earned his master’s degree and became a social studies teacher, a career that spanned three decades. Right before he retired, Bill worked at John T. Baker Middle School in Damascus, Maryland.

“Mr. Ruth was my seventh grade social studies and history teacher at John T. Baker Middle School in Damascus, Maryland, way back in 1995,” remembers educator Barbara Boyd Overmier. “He was the best teacher, and he made learning fun. He would bring in pictures and slideshows of helicopters he flew, and always had a fantastic story to tell. I remember being more interested in going to his class than any other. I remember him as a kind man, wanting to make sure we achieved our potential and enjoyed doing it.”

Bill Ruth is remembered fondly by many, including scores of former students. And he has left a lasting legacy to his profession. “We lost not only a great man that day,” expresses Overmier, “but our country lost a hero. He was such an inspiration to me that I recently completed my education to become a teacher so that I could touch lives the way that he did,” she discloses. “We’ll miss you Mr. Ruth, you were the best of the best!”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Dr. Charles Turnbull: The history teacher who became the governor of the US Virgin Islands

thMany talented educators have also distinguished themselves as accomplished politicians. An example of this can be found in Dr. Charles Wesley Turnbull, the twenty-seventh governor of the US Virgin Islands.

Charles was born February 5, 1935, in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas Island. The city is the capital of the US Virgin Islands. His parents were Ruth Ann Eliza (Skelton) and John Wesley Turnbull, impoverished immigrants from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. As a child, Charles attended public schools, graduating from Charlotte Amalie High School in 1952.

As a young man, Charles earned both his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Hampton University, a traditionally African American institution of higher learning located in Hampton, Virginia. His education was funded by a Ford Foundation Scholarship. While at Hampton, Charles served as vice president of his freshman class and president of both his sophomore and senior classes. He was also selected as the chief justice of the student court. Charles earned a bachelor’s degree in history with honors in 1958, and his master’s degree in secondary education in 1959. In 1972 he earned a doctorate degree in educational administration from the University of Minnesota.

Charles began his career as an educator as a teacher at the elementary level, eventually becoming a history teacher at the secondary level. Eventually, he worked his way up to the position of principal of his alma mater, Charlotte Amalie High School. Later he became a professor at the University of the Virgin islands. In 1967, the gifted educator accepted a position as the Commissioner of the Territorial Department of Education, where he served from 1979 to 1987. During his years there, Charles was responsible for constructing new schools, eliminating double sessions, initiating vocational and technical programs, inaugurating alternative education programs, and encouraging the involvement of volunteers. He also established the Cultural Education Division to promote awareness of the history and culture of the Virgin Islands and the greater Caribbean region.

In 1998 Charles was elected the sixth governor of the US Virgin Islands. Prior to 1970, the governor was appointed by the US president. Once elected, Charles served two terms. During his tenure, he served as a member of the National Governors Association, the Southern Governors Association, and the Democratic Governors Association.

For his tireless work as an educator, Charles has been honored with numerous awards. Among these are the Leadership and Service in the Field of Education award in 1989; the Citation for Excellence in the Service of Humanity in 1992; the Turner Broadcasting System’s Trumpet Award for Outstanding Contributions to Public Service and Education in 2001; and the Humanist Award from the Virgin Islands Humanities Council in 2005.

Charles Wesley Turnbull: a true Chalkboard Champion.

Duane Pomeroy: High School Social Studies Teacher and Topeka Politician

Often talented educators also distinguish themselves as public servants. This is true of DuaneĀ  Pomeroy, a high school social studies teacher and tennis coach who served for a time as the acting mayor of his home town of Topeka in Shawnee County, Kansas. Duane is pictured here on the left, following a tennis match.

11236168Duane was born in Topeka on January 1, 1952, and was raised there. His father, Elwaine Pomeroy, served sixteen years as a Kansas state senator. Duane graduated from Topeka High School in 1970. After his high school graduation, Duane enrolled at Washburn University in Topeka. There he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 1978 and his teaching certificate in 1979. Interestingly, while he was working on his degrees, he served on the Topeka Unified School District 501 Board of Education for four years, from 1977 to 1981. Interestingly, Duane also served as an alternate delegate to Republican National Convention from Kansas in 1972.

Long after his service on the Board of Education, Duane accepted a position at Topeka High School where he taught government and social studies. He also served as the head coach for both the school’s tennis team and the bowling team.

Duane became a member of the Topeka City Council in January, 1993, when he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Vic Miller when Miller was elected to the Shawnee County Commission. Duane also served as the Deputy Mayor under Mayor Butch Felker. From November, 2003, to January, 2004, he served as the acting mayor when the mayor became involved in a scandal and was forced to resign. His weeks as the interim mayor were eventful. Besides overseeing the application process for appointing a new mayor, he made approximately 40 appointments and reappointments to city boards and commissions. He also handled recommendations related to streamlining expenses related to the city’s fire department.

On a personal note, Duane married Deborah Briggs, and the couple have two grown sons, Shane and Troy.

Nicole E. Lowen: The Teacher Who Was Elected to Hawaii’s House of Representatives

web1_Nicole-Lowen_5There are many fine examples of talented educators who also become successful politicians. Such is certainly the case with Nicole E. Lowen, a Montessori teacher and a Democrat who currently serves as a member of the House of Representatives in Hawaii. Nicole has represented Hawaii’s District 6 since January 16, 2013. District 6 serves Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, and Honokohau.

Nicole earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Pennsylvania, and her master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Hawaii. She has also earned a graduate certificate in disaster management from the University of Hawaii.

Her teaching experience includes teaching at Hawaii Montessori School from 1996-2007, working as a teaching assistant at the University of Hawaii Department of Urban and Regional Planning during 2011, and working as an admissions director for Hawaii Montessori School in 2012. She is obviously a strong supporter of quality education. “All children deserve access to a quality education,” she has said, “… and our schools must be given the resources they need to shrink classroom sizes and get the job done.”

In the House of Representatives, Nicole serves on the committees for Energy and Environmental Protection; Ocean, Marine Resources, and Hawaiian Affairs; Finance; and Water and Land.

In her spare time, Nicole is active with the Sierra Club. She has been a volunteer for the organization during 2011-2012 and served as a member of the Sierra Club’s executive committee during 2012.

Elmer C. “Mike” Alft: High School History Teacher, Published Historian, and Elgin Town Mayor

ecThere are many examples of talented teachers who win acclaim in professions other than teaching. This is the case with Elmer C. “Mike” Alft, a retired high school history teacher who is also recognized as an American historian and the former mayor of Elgin, Illinois. He is pictured here, on the right, with a relative.

Mike was born in 1925 in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Grinnell College in 1949. Founded in 1846, Grinnell College is a private, co-ed, residential liberal arts and sciences college located in Grinnell, Iowa. In 1950, Mike earned a master’s degree from Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

Mike’s long career as a teacher at Elgin High School spanned four decades. While teaching, he also served as a city councilman, mayor, and secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Gail Borden Public Library District. Mike was first elected to the Elgin City Council in April, 1963. Four years later he was elected the mayor of Elgin. As was the custom at the time, the distinguished educator did not seek re-election when his four-year term expired in 1971. The dedicated educator also taught part-time at Elgin Community College.

Mike is probably best-known as the historian of his home town of Elgin. He has published numerous books on the history of Elgin and the surrounding area, in addition to hundreds of articles for the local newspaper, the Elgin Daily Courier-News. He currently writes a bi-weekly column on Elgin’s history.