I am excited to join Webucator.com in celebrating National Teacher’s Week! They are launching a blog campaign that shines the spotlight on great teachers from around the country. I am honored to shine my spotlight on my high-school calculus teacher, Dr. Del Ferster.
I was always told I was good at math, but it was never my “thing.” I was much more drawn to history and social studies, literature, and writing. Throughout middle school and high school, I had every kind of math teacher you could imagine: the fresh-out-of-grad-school, super enthusiastic twenty-something, the middle-aged Italian mathematician, and the one who should have retired years before I had her. But I cannot think of my past teachers without Dr. Ferster jumping to the front of my mind.
I had Dr. Ferster for two years at Owen J. Roberts (OJR) High School: junior year for pre-calculus and trigonometry, and senior year for AP Calculus. Within the first five minutes of my very first Ferster class, I realized why other students and teachers spoke so highly of him. From day one he was energetic and enthusiastic, and his passion for teaching radiated from him like sunshine. He never hesitated to answer whatever questions we asked with a smile and usually a joke. He made learning the unit circle and trigonometry functions enjoyable.
My fondest and most vivid memories of Dr. Ferster come from my AP Calculus class. Looking back, I don’t know how I would have gotten through that class without Dr. Ferster, at least with my sanity in tact. He was always willing to come to school early or stay late at the end of the day for extra help and study sessions. As a frequent attendee of those early or late meetings, I cannot speak enough to Dr. Ferster’s devotedness to ensuring his students’ success, especially in such a challenging discipline as calculus. I lost count of how many times I asked him to go over Riemann sum problems or walk me through the Shell method just one more time. I envied his patience. The puns continued, too; my personal favorite was, “Okay class, today we’re going to take it to the limit…one more time.” Dr. Ferster loved The Eagles…the band, not the football team, as he often had to clarify. He crafted witty and creative word problems that often involved allusions to his favorite teams and athletes. One rate-of-change problem asked us to calculate the force at which a player would have to jump for an effective Lambeau Leap.
Aside from being an awesome teacher, Dr. Ferster was an avid sports fan. He proudly supported his Green Bay Packers and Boston Celtics, and never hesitated to talk about sports with his students. My senior year was especially interesting, because the teacher across the hall was a Vikings fan, and Brett Favre had just signed with Minnesota. That friendly morning banter was always a fun way to start a Monday. I never saw Dr. Ferster without a cup of coffee, and he often joked about his Snickers addiction.
When I graduated in 2010, Dr. Ferster joked, “Don’t read too much Shakespeare in college!” He knew I was going for an English degree, and that meant my math days were numbered. I laughed then, but he encouraged me never to give up on math: “You’ve got a real knack for it, even those pesky Riemann sums.”
Dr. Ferster retired from high-school teaching in 2011. He taught at OJR for over 30 years. He now teaches math at Immaculata University in Immaculata, Pa.
Happy National Teacher’s Week, and Thank You, Dr. Del Ferster!