This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

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.

While Duane was here, 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.

"Interesting!" I replied. "We have a Dr. O'Hern who writes a column for the 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 more recent. O'Hern was a close observer of a lot of former Superintendent Rick O'Connell, former Assistant Superintendents Pat Grippe and Bill Reimer, Denny Hill, the former District long range planner. There are many others: 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.

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