No one likes the word “no,” but there are times when someone hears it and ignores it because they just know better. This is what happened to me.

In 1965 the Viet Nam War was going full steam. Two of my high school friends were in the service. In September, I started my senior year in high school with a girlfriend and a plan. I would graduate and another friend would drop out of high school - we were going to join the Navy on the “buddy plan” and when I got out, get married.

Based upon my plan, I did not see a real need for education so I only worked to maintain a “C” average to participate in sports. My favorites were physical education, shop, study hall and lunch (still is).

However, Glidden High School hired some new teachers in 1965 and one was our industrial education or “shop” teacher who was a hometown boy, Mr. Jerry Killinger.

Mr. Killinger was definitely a no nonsense, strict, but very good teacher.

Suddenly my senior year, I had a greater interest in studying and my grades improved, but my career plan was still the same.

In January, Mr. Killinger wanted to talk to me during my Study Hall and he asked me if I ever thought about going to college. My response was, “College is for rich people and Ma and I are living on $50 per month that I earn from my seven paper routes. I could never afford to go to college.”

Mr. Killinger started talking about loans, grants, and work study (all things I knew nothing about) and said I should think about it.

I didn’t have to think long because of the money situation, but he didn’t quit. Mr. Killinger brought in UW-Stout yearbooks and as I looked through them, the pictures were as foreign to me as those in National Geographic.

Yet, by the end of the year, Jerry Killinger had convinced me to go to Stout, where I did my undergraduate work and after I started teaching, I did my graduate work at Oshkosh.

As I look back on all the doors my college education has opened for me throughout my career, I have Jerry Killinger to thank because he saw something in me that no one else did - potential.

Many times during inclement weather, I silently thank Jerry Killinger as I sit in a heated or air conditioned office because he convinced me to get my college education.

Jerry Killinger is my hero because he could have just “taught,” but he went above and beyond to see something in me that I didn’t or couldn’t see in myself.

As I taught, coached, and worked, I used Jerry Killinger as an example and always attempted to have people reach their highest potential.

I know a lot of people do this, but if everyone just helped others reach a little higher, we would have a better world!


Wayne Pankratz

Wisconsin Rapids

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