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Letter to the Editor: Remembering Former Teacher Fred Wales

The Reading education community lost beloved figure on Feb. 22, when longtime RMHS and Parker Middle School teacher Fred Wales passed away at his home in Beverly.

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.

Sincerely,

Doug and Elaine Webb.

Michael S. Young February 29, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Far and away the finest, most influential teacher I ever had. In 1961, the Massachusetts Technical Drawing Teachers Association (MTDTA) and Northeastern University inaugurated is competition among high school technical drawing students. Fifty students from 18 high schools and 21 teachers participated. Paul Riley, a senior, and Dave Young and I both sophomores represented RMHS. (Dave could only take the morning half of the exam because he had a track meet that afternoon.) Paul took 6th prize and I received 2nd. Along with Dave's half day total, our combined scores put RMHS in first place. The year before the competition, Fred resigned from the MTDTA in a dispute over curriculum standards that the organization wanted to promote or impose. As anyone who ever took a course from him, you know that Fred never taught the same material each year. To be bound by a rigid curriculum was anathema to him. Thus, as the awards ceremony, tears came to Fred Wales' eyes when his students vindicated his position with their performance. I know that it was a proud day for him, and it certainly was one of the most memorable of my life. Mike Young, RMHS '63
Stephen Arsenault March 01, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I had the privilege to teach under Fred Wales at RMHS for 15 years. In my 35 years of teaching in various school systems, Fred was simply the most outstanding teacher I have ever observed. Year after year, Fred would attract the brightest students to his class, who were enlightened by a unique master teacher. I believe that Fred would of excelled in most any profession. He chose teaching and thereby touched the lives of so many who will never forget him. His many talents were exemplified in the classroom and he was held in high regard by the entire staff. Fred was regarded by many as a renaissance man. Over the years, Fred received many visitors to his Cape Cod style house in Beverly. He had built this beautifully furnished home from scratch, down to the doors and windows. Fred was a master in working with wood and metal; ranging from building delicate miniature furniture to full size wooden boats. In later years, Fred could always be found in his workshop, with failing eyesight, working on a new project. Even at the age of 100, Fred had an extremely keen mind, with a sharp wit. I will miss him dearly. Stephen Arsenault
Cheryl March 08, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Mr. Wales was my favorite teacher. :-) I actually contacted the Chronicle about a year ago around his 100th birthday and suggested they write an aritcle about him, but they never did. I thought it would be good for people to learn more about the long time Reading teacher (and friend) who was always teaching and learning. It was always interesting visiting him at his house, seeing the models he'd made and listening to his stories about the various items he'd worked on earlier in his life and at the museums where he volunteered. To hear about how he designed and made the house (with radiant heating), the cabinets, how he learned how to build houses. He still had a small shop in his basement that he made tools to help him continue working down there as his eyesight was failing. He did worry that he pushed the girls too hard, that we went into engineering because of him and not because we wanted to. I assured him that we all appreciated what he'd done for us (support and extra confidence), that some of us went on to be engineers and some decided it wasn't what they really wanted to do. But we were better for knowing him and having him as a teacher. Mr. Wales was an amazing man and he will be missed. CW '84
Paula B. Ward Webb August 25, 2012 at 11:12 AM
I think I hold the distinction of being the first female in Mr. Wales' "mechanical drawing" class (1961). I felt then, as I do know that Mr. Wales was totally dedicated to making my experience a rewarding endeavor. For 4 years he made me feel like I was so very, very special. Having read some of these comments here, I'm realizing more and more that he was equally dedicated to making everyone's experience rewarding. Mr. Wales loved what he did and loved sharing it with others. And, yes, I did go on to engineering school. In the end, however, that wasn't for me. Instead I became an architectural draftsman. My readiness for such was in no small measure a result of what I had learned under the tutlege of our dear Fred Wales. God rest his soul. Paula B. Ward Webb RMHS class of 1964
Nancy Petrocelli June 04, 2013 at 11:48 AM
I no long live in Massachusetts and have been out of the area for a long time. Mr. Wales was my mentor and favorite teacher in high school. He had a huge impact on my life at the time. Because of his encouragement, I pursued engineering. I did not succeed at first in college and even though I had graduated from high school and moved on, I would still drop down to visit Mr. Wales after class. My first semester at University of Lowell was tough. But Mr Wales encouraged me to look past the numbers (3 women in a class of 800 male engineering students) and to push on. I eventually regained my footing and finished college. I think of Mr Wales from time to time, I think how fortunate I was to have known him and to have been one of his students. Thank you Mr. Wales, it has been a pleasure and an honor to know you sir. Regards, Nancy Petrocelli RMHS Class of 1979 BS Mathematics - University of Lowell BS Fire Protection Engineering – University of Maryland MS Fire Protection Engineering – University of Maryland

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