Centennial Connections: Van Johnson & Chet Pryor

Centennial logoAlumnus Van Johnson, ’72, got in touch recently with his W.A.C.C. Communication 101 instructor, Chet Pryor, whom he credits with helping to break him out of his shy, timid shell.

Pryor, who teaches at Montgomery College (Maryland), and Johnson are planning an in-person get together soon, and meanwhile have been in touch via Facebook and email.

Pryor even gave Van a Facebook shoutout, wishing a happy retirement to his former student. “It’s interesting when your former students retire and you’re still teaching,” he said.

Van’s letter:

I would like to share the sincere affections and feelings I still have for a professor I had for a Communication 101 class during my tenure at WACC in 1972.

Before I attended college, I was a very shy, reserved, modest and inhibited student in a rural school district. I came to WACC with the same attributes I had in high school. Then I registered for a required Communication class, and that made all the difference to me. This professor required his students to write speeches and to present them in front of the class. This process began to crack my timid shell and "forced" me out of that shell. As I began to gain confidence after confidence, I was able to speak and give good written speeches in front of my peers. This professor gave constructive criticism and always positive praises and reinforcements to his students. He made me feel good about myself  before I left his classroom. I looked forward to my next day in his class.

After graduating from WACC, I transferred to Clarion and earned my Bachelor of Science in elementary education.

In my classroom, I required my intermediate elementary students to write creative stories and read them in front of the classroom. I cannot tell you how many times the parents told me how my reading class made their child a more confident student in high school and (led them to become) class leaders. Even some of my former students shared the same comments with me when I attended their graduation ceremony. I would tell them the story of a special professor I had when I started college as a very young, timid student who couldn't speak well in front of a group of fellow classmates.

Besides being an elementary teacher, I was a counselor, an alternative education teacher, four-time president of my local education union, three times on the collective bargaining committee, 12 years on the State Instructional and Professional Committee of PSEA, and three times as an elected delegate to the NEA. Now, I am a retired teacher after 35 years of public education service (this is my third year of retirement).

As you can see, I am no longer a shy, timid and inhibited person. This professor transformed me into a walking, talking person who sometimes doesn't know when to stop talking. I give this professor the absolute credit for helping me choose public education as my career.

This professor was my mentor, a friend, and a man with class. I hope I can see him someday and tell him "thank you." His name is Chester Pryor.

Remember Chet of Van? Leave comments on Van’s story – or submit your own Centennial story.