Lifelong events sometimes hinge on fortuitous circumstances. I’d just pulled away from the curb, beginning my drive to the airport, when the mailman waved me down and handed me a letter—a letter that would change my life forever.

I was preparing to fly to St. Paul, Minnesota, where I would be attending a technology conference. I’d then drive to the home of my wife’s parents in Appleton, Wisconsin, where I’d stay a few days while interviewing for jobs.

I’d just completed a doctoral program at Utah State University. I’d entered the program at thirty-three years old, well beyond the recommended age for doing such a thing. But I knew what I wanted. I didn’t plan to be a university professor; I wanted to return to a public school system.

I’d already spent eleven years as an elementary teacher, special education teacher, and a school psychologist in Janesville, Wisconsin. I hoped to return to Janesville, or a similar elite system, in a directorate position, maybe as a director of pupil services.

Although I was presented opportunities to become a teaching assistant while at Utah State, I refused because I wasn’t planning to teach in a university and didn’t see any value in it. I taught a class a couple times, but not on a regular basis. And although, upon graduation, I was offered excellent teaching positions at two major universities, I turned them both down. I intended to return to Wisconsin, back to its fine public schools.

I was married with a baby daughter, and we eventually added two sons to our household. My grandmother had been important in my life, so I believed that ideally my children should grow up close to their grandparents.

I’d heard that our state’s Cooperative Education Service Agency (CESA) directors were convening in Appleton about the time I’d be there. So, I contacted several agencies and requested interviews. I had a couple scheduled during the time I stayed with my in-laws.

But, on a whim, I’d also done one other thing. Although I’d already turned down two excellent university jobs—jobs for which I didn’t even send in applications—I wrote to the special education department at UW-Oshkosh and requested a job interview. I thought: Why not? Oshkosh was within a half hour’s drive of Appleton, so if nothing else was available, I could remain there a couple years until finding a job I’d prefer.

That was the envelope the mailman handed to me as I left Logan, Utah, that day. I didn’t pay much attention at first but read it while on the airplane. It invited me to stop at Oshkosh and talk to the Special Education Department’s chairman and maybe a few other department members if they were available.

I interviewed with the CESA directors, but there were aspects of CESA employment that were not to my liking. CESA employed school personnel and then sublet them to school systems in their area as an alternative to these systems hiring full-time specialists or instructors. CESA’s income was dependent upon its ability to rent out staff, and because of that uncertainty, I decided against CESA employment.

I interviewed with the CESA directors, but there were aspects of CESA employment that were not to my liking. CESA employed school personnel and then sublet them to school systems in their area as an alternative to these systems hiring full-time specialists or instructors. CESA’s income was dependent upon its ability to rent out staff, and because of that uncertainty, I decided against CESA employment.

But I was determined that my children should be close to their grandparents, so I accepted the offer. I decided that I could always move on when a better opportunity availed itself. It turned out to be a good decision because Lynn’s parents and our children developed a lasting and loving relationship.

Something happened in the meantime. I began to like university teaching. It became a win-win situation—a win for me professionally and a win for my wife, my children, and their grandparents, Wesley and Evelyn Weinkauf.

I retired from UW-Oshkosh twenty-five years later. I probably would never have bothered to stop at UW-Oshkosh if that mailman hadn’t shouted me down. As I said, lifetimes sometimes turn on unexpected but fortuitous circumstances.

 

If you like this you'll love the O'Shaughnessy Chronicles!

When a sibling unexpectedly inherits his grandfather’s dairy farm, Will O’Shaughnessy turns to selling Fords in rural, pre-World War I southwestern Wisconsin.

A richly wistful epic tale of a bygone era....Readers will yearn for more. ~ Midwest Book Review