John Geib Waidner

These articles are The Morning Call Newspaper Company

Date: THURSDAY, December 6, 1984 Page: N03 Edition: Z4 <


by RICH HARRY, The Morning Call

He's been a school teacher, steel worker, history expert, naturalist, scout leader, world traveler, map enthusiast, photo buff, bike rider, backpacker, horseback rider, fisherman, camper, white-water raftsman and, last but not least, a life saver. Literally. The life of John ''Jack'' Waidner reads like something gleaned from a profile section in National Geographic. Or maybe an autobiography of a modern- day sightseer intent on finding the end of the rainbow

He has left his footprints on nearly every place worth seeing between Europe and Oregon. And if you want to talk about such things as tombstones in Wind Gap, cavalry forts in Nebraska or the diet of dinosaurs in Utah, Jack Waidner might be the man for the job.

He speaks of his hobbies and his jaunts with great fervor, and just when you think a conversation might end, the North Bethlehem resident bubbles anew - ''Here, look at this!'' - and unrolls a United States map marked by red and black lines showing the routes of his travels, by road or by rail.

The swirl of color makes the map look as if some kid went crazy with crayons, so extensive have been Jack Waidner's trips. The Rocky Mountains look like one of his favorite areas, as does the Northwest, the Southeast, the Midwest, New England, California. But when pressed to name the one place best suited for an outdoorsman like himself, the one place he prefers to all others when it comes time to hammer a tent peg or pump up a raft, Waidner shows no hesitation. ''Pennsylvania.''

He loves the state's deep forests and rolling hills, its winding rivers and its rich colonial past. The proof is in many of the 15,000 color slides he has taken. So it's little wonder that Bethlehem Area School District officials looked in the direction of Waidner, a teacher at East Hills Middle School, when they launched a package of programs whose focus was directed outside the classroom.

''It was back in the mid-'70s, when the district was pushing 'lifetime' sports - hiking, fishing, skiing, bicycling, things that aren't competitive.''

The district had a natural selection when it tapped Waidner to head the hiking and bicycling programs, the latter since disbanded. ''I've been a camper all my life,'' says Waidner. ''I was taking hikes forever.''

It was his desire to be outdoors as much as possible that in part prompted Waidner to give up a lucrative position as an inspector of beam yards at the Bethlehem Steel Corp. and enter the teaching profession in 1963. After all, he would be free on weekends and during summers. And he always had enjoyed working with Boy Scouts. He had been a scoutmaster and a member of an advisory committee.

Using a hiking stick handed down by his great-grandfather, Waidner still is lured to the wilderness despite a heart condition that necessitated a by- pass operation last April. On one weekend each month of the school year, a handful of students from East Hills and Freedom High scramble onto two school district vans and are taken to the Lehigh River Gorge State Park, between Jim Thorpe and White Haven, or the Appalachian Trail or any of the other sites favored by hikers and campers.

The students come away from the outings familiar with flower and fauna, local railroad lore and historical ruins, Waidner says. There are some rules for hikers, including a ban on transistor radios.

''I want to hear the streams running and the wind blowing through the trees,'' Waidner says, laughing.

On some occasions students return to the site, with parents in tow. But despite the attractiveness, a hike can take a dangerous turn. Waidner found that out in November 1978 when he hiked Broad Mountain near Jim Thorpe.

Waidner was in a group that was hiking near Glen Onoko Falls when a rock fell toward one of the hikers, an 8-year-old boy. Waidner pushed the youth aside and deflected the rock with his hands. Results: One safe little boy and 20 stitches in Waidner's right hand.

''You sort of sense this stuff when it comes and you act quickly,'' he said at the time.

The hiking and bicycling programs were added to Waidner's own list of projects that sidestep the classroom - among them, a student crafts program held each year in Bethlehem's historic quarter, and, several years ago, an archaeological dig near Glendon.

The Junior Craftsman program was started in the early 1970s, inspired by a class trip to a gunpowder mill in Wilmington, Del., where Waidner and the students saw presentations of 19th century living.

''They were using adults who showed the junior high students the way of working in the early gunpowder mills,'' Waidner says. ''I thought, why can't we use the setting under the Hill-To-Hill Bridge and do something similar, using older students to show colonial crafts to younger students.''

Under the program Waidner set up with the help of district administrators, 8th graders who are enrolled in the school's gifted student program simulate such tasks as carpentry, pottery, weaving, blacksmithing, gunsmithing and fur trapping. The beneficiaries of these demonstrations are district 4th graders who are taught local history in the classroom. The public is invited to the demonstrations.

Waidner says the key to such a program, held on two consecutive weekends each May, is that it teaches a student the ''Three I's.'' They are innovation, involvement and improvisation.

''This is the culmination of the final major project that the gifted student does before going to high school. It gives them a sense of responsibility. We recommend what books to read, show film strips and slides taken of other programs over the years. But the students do the research.''

Waidner has developed other unusual programs at East Hills where he taught history and geography before being chosen to head up the school's gifted student program. One such program outside the classroom was an archaeological dig at an old iron foundry in Glendon where students unearthed an old bottle and some rusty bits of iron.

And, as part of a social studies project on the Lehigh-Delaware Canal system, students went on a field trip to the canal and, when they returned to the classroom, they used balsa wood to construct small replicas of the canal lock, a canal boat and a covered bridge.

Waidner also has had students research the Civil War diaries of Thomas Rogers Booth, a Bethlehem resident and an ancestor of Waidner who had served as a captain in the Union Army.

''Turns out he also was a whist player,'' says Waidner.

There have been other projects - a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to commemorate the span's 100th anniversary; bike hikes to the northern part of the county where students snapped photos of farmland and stream systems, and a trip to a cemetery in Wind Gap where students used crayon and tissue paper to duplicate the names and dates on tombstones for research purposes back at school.

''These are things students never would be able to do in the classroom,'' Waidner says. ''We need teachers who are willing to open up new avenues for additional learning. We definitely have the teachers to do these things, but it takes experience. To go out into the field takes lots of planning.''

Waidner's programs have attracted the attention of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In 1973, he was one of 10 finalists for Pennsylvania's Teacher of the Year Award and a candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Award.

The education department also had a photography crew join Waidner's students on a bike hike for a television program that focused on ''extending the classroom out of doors,'' which Waidner says was aired on public television.

There are no new educational programs being planned by the East Hills teacher at the moment. But that doesn't mean Waidner is not thinking about it. Possibly, he says, he'll have students use topographic maps to simulate famous military battles. And maybe he'll send students to small ''crossroad'' towns in the area and have them interview the residents and take pictures of the buildings.

Where does Waidner get his ideas for his programs?

From his experiences as a youth, he says.

''I just try to think about what used to appeal to me,'' he says. ''I just dream them up left and right.''

Date: THURSDAY, May 2, 1985 Page: N04 Edition: Z4 <


Awards of merit, fellowship and the spirit of scouting were presented at the annual recognition dinner of the South Mountain District 3 of the Minsi Trails Council Friday night at Ss. Simon and Jude Catholic Church, Bethlehem.

Approximately 120 scouters and friends of scouting attended the event which included a covered dish supper and displays of old patches, neckerchiefs, slides and pictures of scouting in years prior to the merger of the Bethlehem Council into the Minsi Trails Council. Gerald Still, program chairman, showed a color slide program entitled ''Potpourri of Scouting'' depicting events in scouting over past years.

Still and Joseph Ternyik displayed old scout handbooks and uniforms dating back to the very first.

The Rev. Robert Reed, pastor, gave the invocation. John Waidner served as master of ceremonies. Russell Graber conducted the District 3 Court of Honor.

Three men were given the District Award of Merit which is presented to scouters who have rendered noteworthy service to boys and contributed some service to youth in addition to scouting. Recipients were Harry M. Bodes, scoutmaster of Troop 318; Kenneth Rauscher, district program chairman, and Robert Hannon, assistant scoutmaster of Troop 346.

Fellowship awards, presented to scouters who have rendered outstanding service and exhibit fellowship and helpfulness, were presented to Stephen J. Fertal, committee member, Troop 339; Richard K. Harlan, scoutmaster, Troop 364; Maryanne Landis, committee member, Pack 304; Robert V. Leun, assistant scoutmaster, Troop 346; David S. Tubaugh, committee member, Troop 191, and William J. Venanzi, cubmaster, Pack 339.

The Star Award is presented by the district for outstanding service in the special education scouting program. Recipients were Beverly Fegley, Cubmaster, Pack 325, and Raymond Keeler, Scoutmaster, Troop 338.

The Unit Scouter Award is presented to those who best exemplify the spirit of scouting in their unit. Recipients and their packs were Beverly Fegley, 301; Ana Ventura, 304; Patricia J. Krycia, 331; Elvira Fenner, 335; Jerry Lebeduik, 346; Dennis Fertal, 349; Jean Keller, 361, and Lee Searfoss, 364.

Also Marjorie P. Kichline, Troop 191; Fred I. Grunder, Troop 302; Sandra Acevedo, 314; Daniel Dixon Jr. 318; Michael J. Santo, 319; William Hlavinka, 335; Penny Lambert, 339; Bruce Peters, 346; Lee Kirk, 352, and Daniel M. Knabb III, 364.

Date: THURSDAY, June 15, 1989 Page: N16 Edition: Z4 Section: Column:



Retirements of 11 professional staff members with more than 250 years' combined experience have been accepted by the Bethlehem Area School Board.

Planning to leave the payroll on Sept. 1 are Loretta Cerchiaro, elementary guidance counselor, and William Schuler, Freedom High business education teacher, both with 33 years' service; Dale Kehler, Liberty High language arts, 30; Evangeline Reichl, Liberty's school nurse, 28; John Waidner, East Hills Middle School teacher of the gifted, 26, and Theresa Voros, elementary school nurse, 23.

Also, Maryel Herman, Governor Wolf School second-grade teacher, 22; Philip Falcone, elementary vocal music, 18; Joanne Leiss, Nitschmann Middle School home economics, 17; Jane Missimer, Nitschmann language arts, 15, and Carolyn Watkins, Asa Packer School reading, 13.

From the non-instructional staff, Ruth Mirth, a Liberty library clerk, will retire July 5 after 12 years. Mary Ann Kern is leaving the Freedom cafeteria staff after 14 years; she resigned for personal reasons.

Date: Monday, September 10, 1990

* Get well, Jack: John "Jack" Waidner was mentioned to former co-workers during the recent convocation for 780 teachers in the Bethlehem Area School District.

Superintendent Thomas J. Doluisio said Waidner had a stroke this summer and was doing well at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital. Waidner retired last year after 26 years in the classroom.

Doluisio said the former East Hills Middle School staff member would like cards and letters. He said Waidner "touched many of our lives and he was a good joke teller."

Date: Monday, September 12, 1994

Page: B06 Edition: FIFTH Section: LOCAL/REGION Column:


John G. "Jack" Waidner, 61, of Country Meadows, Bethlehem Township, formerly of 2075 Hopewell Road, Bethlehem, died Saturday in St. Luke's Hospital.

He taught social studies and history, and worked with gifted students at East Hills and Nitschmann Middle schools in the Bethlehem Area School District. He also taught American history to adults in evening school.

In 1973 he was one of 10 finalists for Pennsylvania's Teacher of the Year award and a candidate for National Teacher of the Year.

Before he began teaching, he was employed by the Bethlehem Steel Corp. from 1951 to 1963.

Born in Bethlehem, he was a son of Marian (Geib) Waidner of Bethlehem Township and the late John L. Waidner.

He was a member of First United Church of Christ, Bethlehem, where he was vice president of the consistory.

He served as scoutmaster to a Boy Scout troop in Hellertown, and for many years was summer camp director at Camp Minsi. In 1965, he received the Silver Beaver award, and in 1971 led a contingent from the Lehigh Valley to the Scouts' world jamboree in Japan.

He was a volunteer at St. Luke's Hospital, Muhlenberg Hospital Center and Good Shepherd Home.

Survivors: Mother.

Services: Private. Call 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Lester S. Pearson Funeral Home, 1901 Linden St., Bethlehem.