Training for a Cause
Photo by Joseph Photography
Warren Wish finishes eating dinner with his wife just as the restaurant’s evening rush hits its peak. As the couple gets up to leave, a dog jumps out from under the table and casually follows them out the door. But in Wish’s hometown, few of the other patrons turn and stare; they’re used to seeing him with a furry, four-legged companion.
Wish, who served as a counselor at Eagle Valley Middle School in Carson City, Nevada, for 36 years before retiring, trains seeing-eye dogs. Over the past 25 years, he has trained 23 dogs to maintain their composure in any situation—even under tables in busy restaurants.
While training, guide dogs accompany their trainer everywhere. During his decades as an educator, Wish often brought his dogs to school, and talked to everyone about them. Several students and faculty followed his example over the years by becoming trainers.
Wish’s school often contained (and still does) eight to 10 guide-dogs-in-training every day. Not only did these dogs teach students the importance of service, Wish says, but they also improved the overall learning environment.
“The dogs were some of the best students we had in the school—and they made the kids behave too,” Wish says. “You could threaten to take the dog out if the students weren’t paying attention.”
Wish says many retired educators would make capable trainers: They often go to unique places, which is important for the training process, and they would be naturals at educating people about the role of guide dogs in society.
There is a downside, though: saying farewell. When a dog is ready to graduate from training, the trainer is introduced to the dog’s future owner.
“Each time, we cry, even after 23 dogs,” Wish says. “We cry when we have to say good-bye to the dog, but they are also tears of joy…you know how much it means to someone else that you’ve given them the ability to lead a normal life.”
— Collin Berglund
Frank Colbert, Jr.
I taught 7th and 8th grade reading and language arts for most of my 35-year career in Dallas. Now I serve as president for the retired local and as a state delegate for the Texas State Teachers Association.
What do you enjoy most about retirement?
I enjoy having the opportunity to do what I want to do. I don’t have to look at the clock. I’ve always desired to open my own business. Now, I have the chance to focus on my own tile and carpet installation company—started in 2008. In addition to my business, I enjoy working with NEA-Retired. It’s allowed me the opportunity to continue to meet new people and make new friends.
I taught English, theater, and speech, and directed plays at Rhinelander High School in Wisconsin for 40 years. I’m a longtime delegate to NEA’s Representative Assembly and now serve on the board of the Wisconsin Education Association-Retired.
What NEA experiences have been particularly meaningful to you?
I started an NEA-Retired chapter in my region of Northern Wisconsin. It was needed so we could go on being politically active. Also, going to the RA as a Retired member is a highlight—it is moving to see all these educators striving toward a common goal.