Reading is a community known for its priority on education and it is a district focused on innovation and continuous improvement. Some people may think that is a new emphasis. There are so many new buzzwords; STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math), Real World Problem Solving, project based learning, capstone projects, and whole child approach.
There was a teacher in Reading 28 years ago who embodied all of these best practices. He did all of these things in his classroom and in the Fine and Industrial Arts department, quietly and without fanfare or buzzwords. He was ahead of his time in so many ways, including encouraging students and especially women to pursue careers in science, math, architecture, and engineering. He understood that teaching was much more about the journey of learning and the discovery then it is about the end product. The neat thing is when you focus on teaching students to take the journey; the outcomes exceed the expectations. He reached every single student in his classroom, he challenged each individual, spoke quietly, and spent time at your side. His class period always went by too fast and the drafting tables were full after school because students wanted to be there. He was always there to teach, coach, care, listen, and challenge you.
He is the reason that Doug’s dad, sisters, and Doug and I became engineers. Mr. Wales knew that pursuing engineering was a risky decision for a woman at that time and that it would be challenging, but he had given me the confidence to take the journey. I am certain that countless numbers of RMHS graduates attribute their career today to their experience with Fred C. Wales in the Fine and Industrial Arts wing at RMHS.
After more than 50 years at Parker and RMHS, Frederick C. Wales retired in 1984. He lived in the home he designed and built with his own hands in Beverly. If you could have peered into Fred’s kitchen or basement workshop, you’d see a former student who had stopped by to say thank you to Mr. Wales, sharing their current journey and as always learning from their beloved teacher. For Doug and I there couldn’t be a person beyond our own parents who had a greater influence on our lives.
On Feb. 22, at 101 years old, he joined his loving wife, Edyth, in heaven. Our lives are immeasurably richer for the love and care of this very special high school teacher.
Doug and Elaine Webb.