By Lexie Clayton
Working with students is a special and unique job that only certain people can undertake. Not many people are cut out to be an educator, let alone do it for half a century like Mr. Les Hollander has.
The beginning of the school year marked Mr. Hollander’s 50th at Wall High School.
Mr. Hollander is a music teacher as well as the band and orchestra director at Wall and has been recognized by his peers and other educators to have changed the lives of many. Throughout the years, he has impacted the experience of many students with his knowledge and leadership. His passion for music and teaching is extremely respected at Wall as he reaches the tremendous milestone of 50 years, all at Wall High School.
“I have been able to have had an opportunity to totally affect their education,” Mr. Hollander said about his students. “Sending them to the right places, making connections for them, maybe contacting colleges that had a hesitation, allowing them to apply because they missed a deadline. I guess the most rewarding thing for me is having my graduates stay in touch with me over the years.”
Doing any job for five decades is rare, yet Mr. Hollander somehow remains fresh.
“I think he does keep up with everything,” said Mr. Hollander’s wife, Mrs. Ellen Hollander, who has taught with him at Wall for the last 26 years. “He is always trying new things, new technology, new methods. He is constantly changing with the times.”
“Congratulations to Mr. Hollander as he enters his 50th year in Education at Wall High School,” said Wall High School Principal Mrs. Rosaleen Sirchio. “Mr. Hollander is a remarkable teacher who brings not only content knowledge but also energy, compassion, and dedication to his classroom each day. Mr. Hollander has received numerous awards and accolades during his tenure as a teacher at [Wall].”
Among the most prestigious awards Mr. Hollander has received is Teacher of the Year, for which he was nominated by students and staff.
Mr. Hollander has taught students who are now on Broadway, in the Philadelphia Orchestra and work for the Walt Disney Company and are extremely successful. He is responsible for initially beginning the orchestra program at the Wall elementary schools. He has seen the different changes in education, such as block scheduling, and has had the opportunity to watch students grow over time.
“I think the idea of having standards and expecting students to work towards their standards not so it’s impossible, so it’s giving them an opportunity to grow instead of just accepting the status quo,” Mr. Hollander said of his time in education.
Having taught so many students through the years, it’s not unusual for Mr. Hollander to hear from them and about the things they’ve accomplished. He explained he had recently received an email from a former student who returned to the United States after touring Europe as a musician with the likes of Cher and Nile Rodgers and was looking to catch up before performing in Rio.
“Sometimes it’s the kids that I help them with their college stuff and they end up telling me all the stuff that I taught them that isn’t really part of curriculum,” Mr. Hollander said. “I do not really want to call them values, but they were career values. They said it all helped them throughout college.”
“As a music education major, I use what Mr. Hollander has taught me every single day,” said 2019 Wall graduate Cate Pasterchick, who is attending Kutztown University and was in the marching band and vocal performance. “His teaching has made me realize that the only way students will care about learning is if you care about them. He is an example of what an incredible music teacher looks like and I hope that when I become a teacher I can inspire my students the way he’s inspired me.”
A teacher has the power to influence a child’s life and change their whole perspective and future, and Mr. Hollander has been shown to have the power to make a difference.
“Mr. Hollander constantly reminded me of the importance of artistic expression,” said 2019 graduate Jenna Iorio, who is studying education at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and was concertmaster in the orchestra at Wall. “He taught me how to appreciate beautiful art, especially that which is unique and sometimes even misunderstood. He taught me how art can impact the lives of both the performer and the listener or viewer.”
Mr. Hollander’s commitment to his craft is extremely evident, especially to his wife.
“He is happy, he walks into this building happy,” she said. “He likes to get up in the morning, he likes to come to school. He keeps up with everything. As long as he is happy and healthy, that is all that matters.”
When asked how long she thinks Mr. Hollander will continue teaching, Mrs. Hollander said she believes it will be a very long time.
“Not until his children let him retire,” she shared with a laugh.