“Be a friend.”

Teacher reflects on decades-spanning career

Graham Hill, Editor-in-Chief

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Prior to becoming a regular substitute teacher, Frank George spent the better part of seven decades as a teacher. George taught and coached at a small school in Illinois before moving to Tampa and taking a job at Chamberlain. In 2000, he retired and began working as a substitute. But before his career in teaching, George’s life began in Peoria, Oklahoma, during the Great Depression.

We had good times, they were rough times, but we were close to everybody and trusted everybody more or less,” George said. “You appreciate what you have now more than back then when you didn’t have much.” 

After World War 2 and the ensuing economic recovery, George was then drafted into the Korean War in 1952, being just one of over a million men. 

“It was a pretty bad war,” George said. “We signed a truce and came home in ‘53. Those were hard times.” 

George met the woman who would become his wife, Susanna, in Korea, where she worked as a nurse in a military hospital. The war also afforded George the opportunity to go to college on the GI Bill, enabling him to attend the University of Oklahoma to earn his teaching degree. 

“I wanted to coach because I liked sports,” George said. “I started in 1958, coaching at a school in the country. Coached everything and I got a $150 supplement.” 

After teaching in Illinois, George and his wife moved to Tampa in 1964. George has seen many changes over the course of his time in the city: the end of a large-scale streetcar system, the creation of new schools and the growth of the city.

Biggest change in Tampa, I think, is probably getting major league sports,” George said. And the growth of population east and north. 

He taught social studies at Chamberlain and coached the girls and boys golf teams, who competed at the state level.  

“We had a girls golf team that won three state championships in a row,” George said. “I had some good talent.” 

While he was still at Chamberlain, a friend suggested to George that he do something with humor, saying “You tell a lot of jokes. You got to start something with that.” George met up with Duck Edwing, a cartoonist for the Tampa Tribune, and Edwing would go on to illustrate George’s comic ideas. 

“You know, I taught at Chamberlain for 30 years… you meet a lot of people and you meet a lot of people with stories and things,” George said. “That’s how I got the ideas.”

After teaching since 1958, George retired in 2000 to help his wife take care of his aging mother, though he still coached for a few more years. He has been substituting ever since. In addition to being a substitute teacher, George volunteers at Rocky Point, a local golf course, as a starter.  

The advantage of being a volunteer: you work a few hours, but you get free golf, which is nice. I play quite a bit,” George said. “Got to keep your game up.”  

Over the course of George’s career, he has been able to see many of his former colleagues and students go on to achieve some distinction. George taught at Chamberlain with Bob Martinez, who would go on to be mayor and governor, and also taught current mayor Jane Castor.  

“She was a good basketball player at Chamberlain that’s another thingyou see the kids come along and really develop into something.” George said.

For George, the best part of teaching has always been encountering students later in life and seeing how far they’ve come.  

“Having kids come back years later and say how much they appreciate you, that’s a big thingto see them later is really great, to see what they’ve accomplished,” George said. “It’s a thrill to go like in the mall and someone comes up and says ‘I remember you and you were my best blah blah blah,’ you appreciate that.” 

George wishes that if he were able to impart only one lesson through his years of teachingit is a hopeful and positive one. 

“Treat everybody as you would like to be treated,” George said. Treat your fellow students like you would like to be treatedTo be honest, how many kids have a friend they can really trust? It’s important to have someone you can rely on. Be trustworthy, be a friend. That’s important.”