Guest Blogger: Melissa Barnosky, Class of 2019
This is an interview conducted, written and submitted by Melissa Barnosky. Melissa is a Senior at Albion High School. Her mother, Amy Dermondy Barnosky, is a Class of 1991 Albion Alum. Melissa won the NYS Oratorical Contest this past spring and represented NY at the National contest. Melissa is currently working with Sue Starkweather Miller as an intern and one of her current projects is interviewing a few retired teachers and writing about them. We’re hoping to get to post more of her interviews as she completes them. Melissa wants to ultimately become a political correspondent.
Here is the result of her interview with Don Bemont:
Don Bemont, a retired English teacher, keeps fond memories of his years spent as an educator at the Albion School District, while enjoying his time in retirement. A 1971 graduate of Union-Endicott High School, Bemont attended Albany State for his post-secondary education. He initially planned on pursuing a degree in biology, but after discovering the emphasis on ecology and pre-med courses decided to change his majors to English and mass communications. “I loved English in general,” Bemont said regarding his choice to switch majors. “I loved reading and loved to think about the power of stories.”
Bemont worked at a samaritan shelter as a college student. He interacted with “accused juveniles,” which piqued his interest in working with the youth in a professional career. After he graduated from college in 1975, he obtained a few temporary teaching jobs near the Albany area before applying for a position at the Albion School District in 1977. “I knew the rural life was more my thing,” Bemont said to his interest in a country setting.
His 34 years working at Albion—ten years in the middle school and 24 years in the high school—were filled with passionate teaching and strong connections with students. “He was always positive in the classroom,” said Albion alumnus Amy (Dermody) Barnosky, class of 1991. “He had a wonderful disposition and cared greatly about his students’ success.”
Bemont was a popular teacher, known for his quick wit and amiable personality. He was one of sixty-three educators in the western New York area to win the Excellence in Teaching Award from the University of Rochester in 1994. Recipients of this award demonstrated “knowledge and enthusiasm for his or her subject” and “displayed a sense of humor, respected students, and understood [students] problems.”
Although Bemont’s favorite course to teach was media analysis, his favorite aspect of teaching as a whole was the students in his classes. He loved his job, saying that he “hit it off really well” with students and was “always very happy in the classroom.”
He considered faculty meetings to be “very painful,” but overall, concluded the “tendency to centralize control” to be the worst occurrence that he observed throughout his years of teaching. The decisions made for students’ academic careers has spanned across a broader perspective over time. What used to be decisions made by an individual school district’s administration moved to a state and then national level. Bemont believes that this idea of “one size fits all hurts what we do for students,” potentially affecting their futures.
Retiring in 2011, after three decades of teaching English at Albion, Bemont now has time to do more of the things he enjoys, including traveling, birdwatching, and spending time with family. He began birdwatching with his father as a young child, and it has remained an active hobby for him ever since. His two Shetland Sheepdogs, Finnegan and Molly, often tag along on his daily hikes out in nature. Bemont’s main interest is learning the various birdsongs, with his favorite songbird being the chickadee because he finds that “they are so interactive with people.”
He enjoys walking on the lake trails, and has also traveled to numerous places across the country and abroad with his wife of 36 years, Pat. They have set out on trips to Hilton Heads, SC, The Outer Banks, Wyoming, Northern CA, and Vancouver Island.
As a retired English teacher, it is no surprise that Bemont also finds joy in reading. As an adolescent and young adult, Bemont enjoyed reading historical novels, but since his retirement, he has taken an interest in non-fiction history books. His favorite book, however, is Silent Spring, an environmental science book written by Rachel Carson. It was published in 1962 and reveals the negative effects humans have on the natural world, especially regarding the use of pesticides.
Additionally, Bemont takes pleasure in knowing that his two children remain in western NY. His son, Sean, lives in Holley with his wife; his son, Andy, lives in Rochester with his wife and two young children. Aside from family, Bemont puts effort into keeping in touch with past students and colleagues through social media. He also has breakfast regularly at the Village House Restaurant, with Albion English teachers Susan Sampson and Kristin Roche.
As a self-proclaimed introvert, Bemont feels that his life in retirement—reading and spending much time in nature—reflects who he is as a person. According to Bemont, his outgoing demeanor in the classroom was “a type of act,” and although he genuinely thrived when around his students, considers himself more of an introverted individual. He believes that introverts are often misunderstood, saying that “it’s difficult to interact, that’s all.”
Now beginning his seventh year of retirement, Bemont plans to continue birdwatching and hiking in the outdoors. Although he spends more of his time embracing the natural environment than he does going into town, he will, as an adored educator and person, be forever enshrined in the hearts of past students and colleagues alike.