There have been a whole bunch of folks throughout the history of this old Rug City who never lived in Amsterdam but spent much of their professional lives working here. Many of these commuters enriched our lives either via their professional ability or their friendship. Quite a few were teachers, who lived in nearby communities and taught in Amsterdam’s schools.
Today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant was born in nearby Gloversville on this date in 1937 and was a much loved and respected citizen of that community his entire life. For over thirty of those years beginning in the early 1960’s, he taught high school social studies, first at Wilbur Lynch, when it still housed grades 9 through 12 and later at Amsterdam High School up on Saratoga Avenue.
John “Jack” Handy loved teaching teenagers. He enjoyed being around them, he respected them and he knew how to engage them in a classroom. Even though he taught for over three decades, long enough to teach both my older brother and my daughter, he never got tired of the job. Because he had a passion for history and politics, he kept his class presentations current and relevant. That helped him get his students not just interested in these topics but also excited about them.
Outside the classroom, Mr. Handy was a valuable member of the Amsterdam High School football coaching staff. He also was a frequent chaperone on those annual spring break student excursions to European cites, not just because he enjoyed the traveling but also because students enjoyed being around him. I’ve often felt the people most qualified to evaluate teacher performance are the students themselves, not immediately after they finish the class but instead three of four years later, when they’ve had the opportunity to use and build upon what the instructor was trying to teach them. If you held a reunion of former Jack Handy students and asked them to describe their opinion of him as an educator, you’d hear the same thing over and over again; “Great teacher. Great Guy.”
Mr. Handy died in January of 2012, at the age of 74. He’s buried in Gloversville and remembered fondly in Amsterdam.