Some things have changed since Walter Weaver began teaching 50 years ago: Smart boards, cellphones and clothing styles among them.
But, he said, the students haven’t.
And neither has his passion for education and the students who pass through his classroom.
“I love being around the kids,” said Weaver, 73, a Latin teacher at First Love Christian Academy in Washington, where the school recently held a celebration in honor of his 50 years of teaching.
“Students today are no better or no worse than when I started teaching, and they haven’t changed much. They don’t want a facilitator. They want someone to inspire them.”
When he reached retirement age, after spending 35 years at Canon-McMillan Middle School – mostly as an eighth-grade history teacher – Weaver just kept on teaching. He taught history, world religion and Greek heritage at Community College of Allegheny County and is an adjunct professor in the religion department at Washington & Jefferson College. He has been at First Love for eight years.
Despite having quadruple bypass surgery this summer, Weaver was in his classroom for the first day of school and said he feels fine, although he tires more quickly than he used to.
Charlie Miller, a 10th-grader at First Love who is in Weaver’s Latin 2 class, said students like Weaver’s energy in the classroom.
“I love Mr. Weaver. He’s just so enthusiastic,” said Miller. “He’s so energetic and so happy to be there, and I love it. It’s fun to be around him. … he’s pro-kid.”
Weaver always considered teaching, but spent seven years in seminary before he settled into a teaching career.
He received a bachelor of arts in philosophy and classics from St. Vincent College and a master’s degree in religion.
Said Alyssa Broderick-Curry, who teaches leadership and physical education at First Love and serves as athletic director, “It’s inspirational to see his enthusiasm after 50 years of teaching, and his passion for teaching is remarkable.”
Weaver said his age and life experiences – he went through a divorce and survived a devastating car accident 30 years ago that shattered his hip and left him with a permanent limp – have made him a better teacher.
“Those experiences taught me a lot. Going through a divorce and being in an accident made me more sympathetic to people’s weaknesses,” he said. “Why do I have ne’er-do-wells greeting me like I’m their closest cousin? You have to treat them with respect and dignity.”
He said he wants students to understand how languages work and that “the skin of the apple is not the whole apple; that they have to go deep inside the core. That by studying Latin and the Romans, we understand where we as people come from.”
A fan of sports and music, Weaver played in an adult hockey league until he was 55. He enjoys playing bridge with his mother, who is 95 years old and lives Johnstown. His four children - three followed him into education - live throughout the country.
He has no plans to retire.
“I’ll know when the time is right for me to hang it up,” said Weaver. “But as far as I can tell, it’s not anytime soon.”