His Dreams Took Flight…Literally!
Retired teacher and library media specialist Stan Nowak still remembers his family’s excitement on October 14, 1947, when General Chuck Yeager became the first pilot to break the sound barrier. The Nowaks were proud to say the record was set in an aircraft made in their hometown of Buffalo, New York. For Stan, the event ignited a lifelong passion.
As a child, he spent hours creating model airplanes to hang in his room and took trips to the local airport with his father, further cementing his love of flight. Nowak earned his pilot’s license at age 19 and has been flying for more than 40 years.
“Aviation was always in my blood,” Nowak said. “The thrill is still there even after all these years.”
In 1980, Nowak became a flight instructor at the Chief Niagara Frontier Flying Club, a part of the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, and now serves as chief pilot. He’s flown all over the east coast, going as far south as Florida and as far north as Montreal, Canada.
Nowak soared in the education world, too. After teaching language arts for several years, he was asked by his Board of Education in the 1960s to help construct library media centers at Woodlawn Junior High and then West Hertel Middle School, where he would spend 28 years. He’s also been active in NEA, serving in various positions, including as retired representative to New York State United Teachers.
After a fulfilling 34-year education career, Nowak continues to reach new students as a flight instructor.
“I’m not one to stand around and let grass grow under my feet,” he said, “and I like helping people.”
Retired teacher Jo Ann Peschel has voted in nearly every election since first casting her ballot in the 1960 presidential race. She’s driven 50 miles to ensure she didn’t miss a chance to vote.
Even as a politically aware girl growing up on a Texas farm, Peschel named one of her calves “Buckshot” in honor of five-time elected Sheriff Tom Will “Buckshot” Lane of Wharton County (who gained notoriety for his local newspaper column).
So, it seems fitting Peschel would choose to further express her passion by helping new citizens become new voters.
Every month, Peschel and other members of the League of Women Voters host voter registration for some 2,000 newly minted citizens following naturalization ceremonies.
“They are so happy to become citizens and they want to vote,” Peschel said. “Some have waited a long time to become citizens.”
After the difficult naturalization process, many people invite family and friends to the ceremony to celebrate the momentous occasion—an experience Peschel takes pleasure in.
“It is such a joy to see people who want to be citizens of this country, [because] we have so many people [in the U.S.] who are disgruntled.”
When she’s not registering voters, she stays busy interviewing political candidates and tracking bills in the state legislature for the League of Women Voters. Peschel, who taught physical education and health for nearly 40 years, also serves on the Legislative and Political Advocacy Committee and as treasurer for Texas State Teachers Association-Retired.
For the past five years, she and other Retired members have read to elementary school children during NEA’s Read Across America. The group plans to travel to Galveston, Texas, to deliver books to school libraries still reeling from Hurricane Ike.