Each week, the #SpanningtheNeed podcast will present an “Inspirational Person of the Week’ and have a “Q & A” with one of its many gifted individuals and/or groups who are willing to go out of their own way to help others. This week’s featured as apart of our Teacher Appreciation Week is Gary Lendak from Howland Local Schools. Nominate someone now
Name: Gary Lendak
Position: Honors Social Studies teacher
School District: Howland Local Schools
What made you want to go into the education field?
I come from a family of teachers. My brother and sister-in-law were both teachers at Howland and I really admired them for their abilities as teachers as well as the relationships they developed with their students. My wife was a teacher in Struthers and my oldest son is a Social Studies teacher at Boardman.
What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful in education?
I take great pride in my knowledge in my subject. Students pick up quickly on whether their teacher is capable or not. I also make sure that my students know that I respect and support them. Finally, being a good listener is essential in our profession.
What is the biggest professional mistake you made along the way?
I originally majored in Civil Engineering. I learned after a year and a half that engineering was not the profession for me. I was guilty of allowing others to influence my decisions. Becoming a history teacher was the greatest decision in my professional life. The adage that if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life is absolutely true in my case. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
What is the best advice you can give future educators or the public?
Always follow your heart. Don’t let people tell you that you won’t make any money in the profession. Also, always be prepared, don’t be satisfied with your ability. I tell myself every year that this will be my best year of teaching. Finally, always do your best. Show up for work every day, be punctual, and be prepared for everything.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently regarding your profession?
I’m not sure I would do anything differently. Even my first year and a half in engineering helped me to mature as a person and taught me the type of work ethic I would need to be successful.
What song best describes you or is the soundtrack to your life?
Music is such an important part of my life. I try to incorporate it into my history lessons as much as I possibly can. Although I prefer the Rolling Stones to the Beatles and my favorite song is Sympathy for the Devil, The End from the Beatles’ Abbey Road sums up my attitude the best. “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make”
What is your best accomplishment/experience in life?
Professionally I cherish the relationships I have cultivated with my former students. I have had numerous students over the years tell me that they went into education because of me. I have been able to help students find local jobs and I am so proud of them.
Who is your role model and Why?
I have modeled my style from my brother Chuck Potashnik. There should be a wing of the building named after him. My wife has shown me a passion and commitment to education. We are a perfect compliment to each other and have talked each other off of the ledge on a few occasions. Also, colleagues John Diehl and Jack Tominey who are both retired, played a pivotal role in my growth. They showed me that you can coach and still be outstanding teachers and people. The kids just loved them.
If there was one person that you would like to meet, past or present, who would it be and why?
One is tough. Winston Churchill and Harry S. Truman. Truman is my favorite president because he wasn’t afraid to make the tough decisions and was willing to accept the consequences of those decisions. I guess Churchill would be the same.
A favorite quote that you live by?
Well, Henry David Thoreau’s poem: “if a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”