Monday, August 16, 2010

Mr. Fanslow Honored - Posthumously Selected for Yankton College Hall of Honor

Here's a column I wrote about Mr. Fanslow in November 2003.

The Teapot Dome Scandal had just broken and President Harding’s Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall was feeling the heat when Bob Fanslow ended his American History class last week.

When class resumes at the Kingsport Institute for Continued Learning in March, he’ll pick back up for his roomful of avid students, a few of whom were born during the Harding administration.

Bob Fanslow started teaching American History to senior citizens a decade ago. Eight years ago he asked the class, “What would you think if we started at the bottom and worked our way up?”

The class agreed and so he backtracked to the voyage of Columbus. A hundred or so classes later he is up to the Harding administration and the jazz age. With any luck, World War II may arrive this spring. If not spring, then maybe next fall.
When it comes to the teaching of American History, Bob Fanslow is a Kingsport institution. He began teaching American History here in September 1950. Except for a two-year time out for the Korean War, he’s been teaching it ever since. He retired from Dobyns-Bennett in 1991 after 39 years, then a couple of years later he picked back up at the Kingsport Institute for Continued Learning.

After his wife and his children, history is his love.

But I probably didn’t have to tell you that. Not after a half century of teaching in this town, some 6,000 students in all. You probably learned history from Bob, er, Mr. Fanslow.

He admits that his current class may “take as long to teach as the period itself. We flow from one period to another; we’ll work eventually to the present day if we’re all around. And I don’t wear out.”

There’s no chance of that, Bob Fanslow wearing out on history. “I do enjoy doing this sort of thing. If you don’t use it you lose it, as they say. I may be a stimulant to the class but the class is a stimulant to me.”

He’s been a learning stimulant in Kingsport for half a century and his former students still give him credit.

“Mr. Fanslow was my Mr. Chips and John Keating of Dead Poet's Society,” says Paula Bennett-Paddick, a D-B grad and retired teacher in Birmingham, Alabama. “He always caused me to study and learn more than I ever thought possible. And, the miracle of it all was that he made me want to do my best.”

Bruce Haney remembers, “I took Mr. Fanslow's class because my cousin Jack Windle told me what a good teacher he was. He was the first ‘college lecture’ quality teacher I can remember; one who was interesting enough you wanted to show up in class and actually listen instead of goofing off.”

Kingsport native Betty Hyder Stone, who now lives in Montgomery, Alabama, says, “I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for awakening in me some sense of the world! I began taking Time magazine during his class and still am a subscriber.”

He did more than stimulate, he also inspired. Dominick Jackson, a Kingsport native who now lives in Greeneville, says, “My Masters Degree in history is in many ways derived from the inspiration and support I received from Mr. Fanslow.”

Bennett-Paddick believes, “His model of teaching was evident in my career as a teacher. I worked hard at not just handing out challenging assignments, but dancing, cajoling, and nurturing my students to have a desire to learn. I found there was a massive difference in requiring an assignment and having students become excited and involved in their learning.”

The curriculum is a bit different in the senior classes. It’s mostly lecture. The unique aspects of teaching these classes are not lost on Mr. Fanslow. “No tests, no written work. People who want to be here. All the advantages of teaching and none of the disadvantages.”

Stone says wistfully, “Since technically I'm a ‘senior’ now, I'd love to take his class again. I'm so impressed that he continues to impart knowledge and to inspire. Wow.”

Mr. Fanslow's General American History Test and key (don't peek!)


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