‘Old school’ teacher helped many

From a father of two of Ira Simpson’s former students:

Guest Viewpoint
By Kurt J. Mohney | Press & Sun-Bulletin

Old school. Ira. It is this phrase and name that will make him a difficult person for me to forget. Individuals who are “old school” are a rare breed nowadays and I only knew one other person named Ira before and not very well. Ira Simpson, who passed away recently, taught two of my three sons a few years back at the Chenango Bridge Elementary School.

Although he was not quite “the “Bobby Knight of the elementary school classroom,” just like Knight, he had a style that demanded 100 percent and settled for nothing less. I got to know him much better three years ago during a substitute teaching stint and realized how much he desired to maximize each young scholar’s potential. He set the rules for classroom behavior and homework assignments and they had to be obeyed. The rules were easy enough for each fifth-grader to understand and his classes were a pleasure to teach because of their respectful nature.

Regarding my two sons, well, they were two different types of students on, should I say, different ends of the scale. One presented no real challenge for Ira while the other held a multitude of untapped potential just waiting to be unleashed on the academic world. At the parental meetings, I was always amazed at how well prepared he was regarding, not only the X’s and O’s (grades), but on the social and behavioral skills both sons exhibited.

He had them pegged to the tee. For the better student, he was almost apologetic explaining one grade (because it was not perfect), but I stopped him in the middle of a sentence, because I too am very much “old school.” I merely reminded him that he was the teacher and the grader, no further explanation necessary. He looked a bit surprised, but I knew he appreciated the comment. My youngest son often said, “If a classmate gets yelled at, they deserve it. It’s hard not to smile, but you’d better not.” Mr. Simpson did have a way of getting a classroom’s attention.

Now, the meeting regarding the plight of trying to uncap the hidden potential of my other boy was a bit different. This son presented more of a challenge, but Ira never gave up trying to get him to maximize his talents. Even more importantly, Ira never stopped loving him as a student. However, he could not figure why this fifth-grader often gave up recess to polish off the portion of the morning newspaper he was unable to finish before school began. Ira was extremely impressed with this, but a bit frustrated that this enthusiasm for current events did not always translate to all of the other subject matter. Ira knew full well that all children are different and to his credit never stopped working to get 100 percent out of this son. In fact, my wife and I got a real chuckle when the class picture came home and off in the far right corner was Mr. Simpson with his hand draped over my son’s shoulder. They were pals for life!

I can attest to the fact that Mr. Simpson put in yeomen’s hours during his teaching career. There were numerous times when I would show up at 6:30 on a weeknight for travel basketball practice and my son always had to go down the hallway, adjacent to the gym, to “say hello to Mr. Simpson.” Well, that same hallway will be very different now and there will be no more “homecoming trips” for the Chenango Valley junior and senior high students to see Mr. Simpson.

If a student ever had the pleasure of having him as a teacher, they should treasure all of the life lessons he taught them. Undoubtedly, all of his former students will know there will never be another Mr. Simpson.

Kurt J. Mohney is a Binghamton resident.

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