New Horizons: A Man of Many Words
For this educator turned columnist, teaching and writing have always gone together.
By Erica Addison
“I liked the challenge in [communicating to] kids the importance of writing properly.”
Retired since 1991, Jack Pflug, a former high school English and journalism instructor, has spent every year since as a columnist and writer at the Northwest Senior and Boomer News, a monthly newspaper circulated to more than 80,000 readers in Washington state and Oregon.
Pflug’s interest in writing started early in his career as a teacher. What was supposed to be a temporary position as a sports and outdoor writer for the Stayton Mail—a local weekly newspaper in Oregon—turned into a long-term second job. Pflug, who also advised school yearbook and newspaper staffs, was able to incorporate the two careers almost seamlessly.
“We had the school newspaper printed at the Stayton Mail; the kids would come in on a Saturday with their material and we had a lady there to type up whatever we needed, and we could print it out,” Pflug says. “It was very convenient.”
As a youth, before a car accident derailed the Texas native’s plans, Pflug assumed his time at a church-sponsored college and interest in church activities would lead him to work as a missionary—not as a teacher.
“I had quite a few friends who were going into teaching and when the church thing didn’t work out I decided, ‘Well, why not?’” says Pflug, who notes that his only qualifications at the time were that he was “pretty good” in English and valedictorian of his high school graduating class.
He attended the Colorado College of Education, now the University of Northern Colorado, on a whim, and taught at schools throughout Washington state, Wyoming, and Oregon for the 31 years after he received his education degree.
The same year Pflug retired from teaching, he was approached by one of the Stayton Mail’s former editors, who was managing her own local newspaper, the Northwest Senior and Boomer News. He has been writing for them now for 18 years.
Pflug says that while he appreciates writing regularly, there are things he still misses about teaching. “I liked the challenge [in communicating] to kids the importance of writing properly,” says Pflug.
Even now, Pflug says that he does his best to stay connected to teaching. In addition to covering news relevant to seniors in the area, his column follows education when Oregon’s legislative assembly is in session.
Other columns are intended to appeal to grandparents who are concerned about their grandchildren’s future and are interested in setting a good example.
Pflug says some of his old classroom lessons have helped him with his column; among them is a particularly important lesson in time management he says was critical to impart to yearbook and newspaper staffs.
“A lot of schools were having difficulty meeting their deadlines, but by working at the newspaper I knew if I didn’t meet deadlines, we wouldn’t get out a product—I impressed that on the kids,” Pflug says.