Reader recalls impact of CCISD's Teacher of the Year

Letter to the editor

Reader recalls impact of CCISD’s Teacher of the Year

I read in your paper (which is where I cut my teeth as a newspaperman in the mid-1980s) that Jan Stalder (who also worked there for many years) was named the Teacher of the Year for Copperas Cove High School. CCISD made a great choice! She was picked for her outstanding work as an AP English teacher. She taught me in both Advanced English and three years in newspaper. 

At a recent retirement reception for her, I sent the following remarks and would like to share them with your readers: 

Jan Stalder — (back in the day she was Jan Ray) — has had more of an impact on my life than any other teacher. 

Early in my sophomore year, she called me out of Journalism I class. Almost a full six weeks had gone by and I had yet to attempt to write a story or conduct an interview. Out in the hallway, she asked why I was wasting her time and told me that I should drop the class or face a failing grade. I said something to the effect that, “I want to be editor of the paper.” 

She laughed. 

Seriously, she laughed. When she was done laughing, she told me that it might be a good idea to actually write a story. 

So I did. 

I can remember the thrill — really, a rush — of seeing the words “By Tim Fleischer” at the top of a story. That was 35 years ago. I still get that rush. It’s called the Devil’s Ink and once you get in your blood, you’ll never get it out.         

I became as a junior, the News Editor. Vince Olivarez and I won Tops in Texas for a news story that year. That was the year the cartoonists for the newspaper got the edition pulled from the shelves. Tom Phelps started what became a tradition of hiding things in cartoons. This one was a skeleton who was pointing a bony finger of indignation. You know the one. 

That summer, I got a job with the Cove Leader-Press and along with Jan, covered the Summer of Ross Perot and what eventually became HB72. I got to meet Bob Bullock, Lt. Gov. Hobby, Gov. White and my love of and politics (particularly, Texas politics) was cast. 

As a senior, we set out to have the best high school newspaper in the State of Texas. We never missed an edition. The Cove Leader Press printed every edition. Many times Jan and I would leave the belly of the old Cove Leader Press to go to the next class that morning with no sleep. 

This was the year I got to yell “Stop the presses!” after an all-nighter. In the days of linotype machines, you fed all the headlines into a machine and it would spit them out the other end for paste-up. Well, we inadvertently left one consonant out of the phrase “Speaks on PUBLIC Education….” It would not have been good for our State Rep’s to be speaking on PUBIC education. 

This was also the year that a new cartoonist almost got us sued. The artwork for a story on Teen Court showed a judge pointing down to a youth, declaring him “Guilty.” There were incriminating bits of art hidden in the cartoon. 

Now, you need to know that the cartoon Jan saw — which had none of that in it — was not the final one that went to press. She was as surprised as I was. Lesson learned: NEVER trust a cartoonist. 

I am sure that some — if not most of Jan’s gray hairs — are due to the classes of 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985. She earned her stripes with us. 

We did win the award as the best newspaper in the state that year. Blue Beacon staffers also won several national awards. We were the first of a tradition of strong newspapermen and women who learned from one of the most dedicated journalists and teachers that CCHS has had in its hallways. 

Jan hates bullies. She hates wrong-doing. She was…. is… and will always be Quixotic, always tilting at the Black Knight. Sometimes, they were imagined, but the vast majority of the time, they were real. 

She always understood the importance of the Press, whether the Press is on printed paper or any other media. She instilled that in her students.  The Fourth Estate is more important than ever before. 

Thanks for teaching me that, Jan. Thanks for showing me that in your actions more than your words. 

Today, I am a newspaperman. Thanks Jan and the Cove Leader Press for giving me a calling as well as a career. 

Tim Fleischer 

Owner, Salado Village 

Voice Salado

Copperas Cove Leader Press

2210 U.S. 190
Copperas Cove, TX 76522
Phone:(254) 547-4207