The following tribute on Teacher Appreciation Week to an RFH teacher who has passed, Bob Berberich, was originally published in 2015.
They’re the teachers who taught us how to communicate effectively, appreciate the English language and even motivate certain writers (ahem) to write — English teachers.
Sporting those extra large aviator glasses, a pensive writer’s glare and exacting smile, Berberich always seemed to be holding court somewhere with the honors students — chatting away about literature, or debating the merits of the writing technique of anyone from the famous to the classroom wordsmith.
He was one of those cool teachers. Aside from the usual classes, he also taught the unusual and challenging — like the senior honors class, Syracuse English.
Syracuse was tough. It was a class for which one had to qualify to get in; and, Bob Berberich taught it well.
He made it interesting, engaging and, more importantly, constructively motivating. Yes, constructively motivating, as wordy as that sounds.
In fact, in many ways, his teachings in that class were the impetus for this editor to pursue writing. Thanks a lot, Mr. Berberich (says the dopey, dedicated writer making nary a penny on this site).
How did he constructively motivate? I know, I know, it’s a bit wordy. Well, one of the finer moments in his class was when we were asked to write an argumentative essay on the benefits versus detriments of natural gas — choosing a side and effectively convincing the reader of one or the other.
One student wrote all about natural gas, alright. He wrote about, well, farting. There’s just no other way to say it. And why not? Berberich loved it. Why? Because it was well-written and funny, to boot. All fun aside, it accomplished the argumentative format goal.
He used it as an example of a very effective argumentative, yet creative, essay.
We also debated many of the classics, from poems to novels and even movies. In his classroom, in fact, was where I first saw Casablanca.
I remember so vividly listening to him tell us that Ingrid Bergman was one of the most beautiful women in the world and a wonderful actress. His argument for her being so great was that, among other things, the way she looked at Humphrey Bogart showed an undeniable love.
He said that science has proven that when someone is in love, their pupils dilate uncontrollably and their eyes fill nearly to the verge of tears — thus, the glazed-over look.
It’s kind of what happened to him whenever he talked about writing.
OK, so he conceded that, in all fairness, there was such a thing as drops for the actors’ eyes and angles and lenses. Still, he said, there was just something very real and convincing about it all — just like he convinced many students to respect the art of writing.
And they do.
Bob Berberich passed away many years ago at a young age. RIP, Bob. Thank you for the smile, the sense of humor, the push, the positive constructive criticism and, mostly, the respect for writing.
Share your memories of Bob Berberich with us. Do you remember who wrote the infamous natural gas essay?