Monday, September 17, 2012

George Tsalaky - A great teacher, a true gentleman

Meeting George Tsalaky at Costco on
Saturday, September 15, 2012
There are people we come across in our lives that have a significant effect on us and while you hope they know that influence, it probably can't really be repaid.  One such person for me, is George Tsalaky, my fifth grade teacher at Backman Elementary.  For those of you who had him or interacted with him as a teacher, know his unassuming nature, and probably one of the kindest most gentle people I will have ever met.  For me, the year following my own father's death, he helped me understand and appreciate myself.  I lacked confidence, self-esteem and even a feeling of security.  Those first couple of years after my father's death were quite hard on me and Mr. Tsalaky was one of those persons who was always there.

Mr. Tsalaky started as a young teacher, early in Backman
Elementary's history.
In a time period where there were not a lot of male teachers, Mr. Tsalaky was a great role model in showing us how to be patient yet firm in treating each other with respect.  I was not the first to have him as a teacher in our family, but I like to think I was his favorite student.  However, I think he made us all feel like we were his favorite student. 

Picture of Backman Elementary faculty from 1966-67
Years after his retirement, George Tsalaky returns to Backman three days a week to volunteer his time in trying to continue to help kids read better.  While many might look to other opportunities, his heart is with the kids.   The measurement of his effect over the decades of association with the children of the West Side can never be calculated, but for him, it was all about the one.

Mr. Tsalaky as a young teacher

My heart gets light again, each time I run into Mr. Tsalaky. While I know that one day, he will return to God, I've asked him to put in a good word for me because his chances of getting there are probably much better than mine!


  1. Wow! This is so great, Carlton!

    Funny enough, I ran into one of my favorite teachers at Costco a few years ago. She was my 5th grade teacher. I guess that's a pretty important year, or they put all the best teachers in that grade. Thank goodness for great teachers that positively influence our lives!!

  2. Wow, Carlton. I'm teaching 5th grade this year and can only hope my students are inspired to become great. It is a privilege to work with such impressionable young minds... Thanks for the uplift!

  3. Carlton yes a great man. A wonderfull teacher and someone who could make a small person feel likr a giant. Spot on.

  4. Thank you for sharing this! Mr. Tsalaky was a great man. Everything that you said had hit home with me. He helped build my confidence and made me feel like his favorite student. He recently passed away, so it was nice to find this tribute to him.