Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

May 5, 2014

DICK WOLFSIE: 'Welcome back, Kotter'

“Am I hip?” I asked my wife the other day.

“Heavens no,” she said. “And the proof is that no one uses that expression anymore.”

That really scared me because I’m depending on some hipness to carry me through the day of Thursday, May 15. That’s when I return to teach at the high school in New York where I taught from 1969-1978. It is also the very place I graduated from in 1965. That first year of teaching, my colleagues called me Mr. Kotter, a reference to the old TV series “Welcome Back, Kotter,” where the main character returns to his alma mater to join the faculty. I took this as a compliment, although it was pointed out to me that as a student, I was more like Horshack, one of the teenagers in the sitcom classroom with a very annoying laugh.

I will have students next month who were not alive in 1970. Wait a second — I will have students whose parents weren’t alive in 1970.

Why am I headed back to the classroom for a single day? When I retired 35 years ago, I had not taught long enough to be vested in the pension plan. But recently a new law reduced the number of years required to be eligible for benefits. It was my wife who urged me to check into this after all this time. This is really hard to say, but she was … she was RIGHT. Oh, that hurts.

To receive my back pension, I have to rejoin the New York State Retired Teachers’ Association, which requires one more day of teaching in order to be reinstated. I have filled out dozens of forms, signed a sworn allegiance to the United States government and gone through a background check. They wanted to be sure I hadn’t done anything bad in the last 35 years. Fortunately, writing and news reporting do not count.

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