Bernie Manker will be retiring from GRCC at the end of November. Bernie has taught at GRCC for a total of 27 years, 25 being in a full time faculty position. Bernie taught Spanish in the Language and Thought and provided leadership to that department for 13 years as Department Head.
When asked what his favorite story about GRCC was, he stated that he doesn’t have a single story, but instead an observation. He stated, “I have been very fortunate to have been able to interact with many of my students for four semesters. They started with me in SP 101 and finished with SP 232. I even had students continue after completion of our regular course offerings with independent studies, seminars and service learning. It was very exciting for me to see a student who succeeded academically turn that into practical application at the Hispanic Center, Clínica Santa María, the migrant camps in and around Sparta, the Alternative High School in GRPS or with Service Learning in Mexico in Monterrey or Medellín. The community we created in the classroom was safe and inviting, the interaction between the students and each other and with me was exciting and challenging and the teaching and learning that took place was genuine and heartfelt.”
When asked about an experience that demonstrated his belonging to the GRCC community and he said, “Once again there is no single story that covers how I feel but rather a constant appreciation for the opportunity to do what I do where I do it. In the winter of 1973 I was a student on my Junior Semester Abroad in Spain. Every morning I walked up Gran Vía toward the University of Valencia on Paseo Valencia al mar. It was winter in Valencia, the air had a chill, the sun was brilliant even at 7:45 and the air was filled with sounds and smells; the smell of diesel, cigarette smoke, fresh bread from the “panaderías” were ever present every day. For 25 years I have walked into GRCC usually before 8:00 am and there have been moments especially in the winter and sunny days that I pick up the scent of diesel in the air and cigarette smoke (not so frequently nowadays) and I am transported back to those days in Valencia. Looking back I realize that I knew then that I was in the right place, at the right time doing what was right for me. The 17 years I taught for Grand Rapids Public Schools were wonderful years and taught me methods, classroom management, patience and when to be more structured and in control of the classroom environment. But it was when I came to GRCC that I felt that feeling again of being in the right place, at the right time doing what was right for me. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to teach here. I have had a career full of fun in class with my students, reward when I saw them succeed, excitement when they “got it”, challenges when presented with difficult concepts to introduce, introspection when trying to figure out how to better present those concepts given the restrictions of the calendar and sometimes anger and frustration when what we do in the classroom does not seem to be enough. I have had the privilege to work with many wonderful people: colleagues and students have become friends and I have established lifelong relationships with many of them. So, why do I belong at GRCC? Because I understood our mission, performed my tasks and played my role as I understood it to be and I believe that I contributed to the nationwide reputation GRCC has as a premier academic institution. I lead a great department, we had a superior program in Spanish thanks to the help of my adjunct colleagues, we developed curriculum that challenged and improved our students’ performance and we adapted and changed as the needs of our transfer institutions, our students and the college changed.”
In retirement, Bernie plans to visit family and friends out of the area. He is hoping to visit Spain within the next year for a month or more to take in the sights, drink “cafe con leche” in local cafes and visit some childhood friends. He has many trips he is planning; bike riding in the West, visiting chalets in our National Parks, taking grandchildren on vacation and spend quality time with his children having conversation while enjoying a glass of wine. He said, “we will now have the time to indulge in those dreams.” His relationships in his life will be his top priority in retirement.
It sounds like a wonderful retirement, Bernie! Thank you for all that you have done for GRCC and your students. Congratulations on your retirement! We hope you will stay in touch and send some photos from the adventures you have planned.