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The Man, the Myth, the Legend: William Wheeler

Wheeler+has+been+teaching++psychology+and+sociology+for+the+last+22+years
Wheeler has been teaching  psychology and sociology for the last 22 years

Wheeler has been teaching psychology and sociology for the last 22 years

Bergen Romness

Bergen Romness

Wheeler has been teaching psychology and sociology for the last 22 years

Andrea Henriquez and Topher Wagner, Sentry Staff Reporter

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In high school, students tend to place teachers they do not know into buckets. Conversations such as, “oh she’s an English teacher right?” or, “he’s in the green pod right?” can be heard amongst all the clamour in the hallway. Yet, there is so much more to every teacher that many students never get the privilege to know since their classes are never on their schedules. There are many teachers that we wish every student could have for just one day to see the difference they made. One of these teachers does not fit in any one bucket: psychology and sociology teacher William Wheeler.

What most students and faculty may not know is that Wheeler has had a very interesting road to becoming the teacher he is today. He worked for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for three years–and he does not hesitate to say he did not enjoy it. Wheeler also became very familiar with being a salesman by selling real estate for some time. He even worked as a skilled bartender. To round out this jack of all trades career, he worked at a private club in the Four Seasons in Georgetown for 15 years before finally finding his place at Yorktown,where he has taught for the last 22 years.

“Originally, for one year, I taught 5 periods of regular world history, but picked up psychology which was not being taught at Yorktown at the time. I then transferred the program over to AP [Advanced Placement] a few years later and taught all AP psych, until about five years ago, when I started teaching World Affairs and Sociology. I currently teach four periods of soc and one of reg psych, [sic]” Wheeler said.

Wheeler is often credited with building the psychology department back up. Before he arrived, it was a popular class among students but it eventually died down as very few took it. Wheeler believed it would be a fun and interesting class to teach which led him to reintroduce the program. Eventually, he transitioned to teaching advanced placement sections. Today, he expanded the program to ten sections of AP and a few of regular.

“I try to personalize the curriculum and focus on the big picture. I always felt if students weren’t going to remember the subject ten years from now, why bother. So I hoped to teach big principles that would be meaningful and memorable,” Wheeler said.

Junior Chris Wells is just one of the hundreds of students who has had Wheeler. Wells takes sociology this school year and also has noticed Wheeler’s talent in teaching.

“Mr. Wheeler’s class is that one class that you’re always looking forward to. He is the opposite of someone who teaches from a textbook. He has a way of turning his life stories into important life lessons and that is something not many people can do. I think everyone at this school will miss him greatly,” Wells said.

His impact went much farther than just on his classes, as Wheeler influenced countless colleagues around him over the years. As head of the social studies department, Michael Palermo has worked alongside Wheeler for many years and will miss all that Wheeler brings his classes and the school as a whole.

“My first impression of Mr. Wheeler was his sense of humor, he’s definitely a really funny guy. He is very energetic especially his interests in his students, and he has all these different ideas and is always talking about new things with his colleagues, with the kids in his class. I also remember him being a really creative teacher, when I was a brand new teacher, he was one of the people that I would talk to and get cool ideas from just because I thought he had a lot of really innovative ideas that he taught his classes” Palermo said.

Wheeler recalls his best memories as being somewhat of an amalgam of all the students he has had throughout the year. He also has fond memories of coaching the junior varsity (JV) softball and JV girl’s soccer team throughout his years as a teacher. Despite a love for teaching, his pet peeve with students is both the overuse of phones and an obsession with grades. He believes the huge emphasis on grades and getting A’s in classes can distract students from what their real interests in life are.

Wheeler also wished to speak on the advice he has to other teachers when reflecting back on his time at Yorktown.

“As Dr. Pasi said once, ‘they won’t remember what you taught them as much as they’ll remember how you made them feel.’ That’s a realization that came to me when I first started teaching. Remember, your subject is only one small part of students’ lives, but the relationships you form can have a huge and lasting impact… I ran into a kid who had gone to Iraq, and he told me he thought often over there about things we’d talked about in class and how that had helped him. That’s some powerful stuff. Those experiences are a massive change in direction for a person, and to think you had an influence in those important life events is pretty cool,” Wheeler said.

After over two decades of being a dedicated teacher to hundreds of students, it is important to appreciate the impact that Wheeler has had on this school. We all wish him a fantastic retirement, filled with new memories and stories to one day tell.

YHS Community Thoughts

“Mr. Wheeler is such a great teacher and I have had such a fun year with him. I am sad that he is leaving, I will miss him a lot next year!” – Peggy O’Neil, junior

“I honestly don’t know what to say! He such an entertaining teacher. Whenever he speaks you listen because everything he says is so interesting. He cares about his students and is just an all around amazing teacher/person! I hope he enjoys retirement!” -Olivia Zavrel, senior

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The Man, the Myth, the Legend: William Wheeler