By KAYLEE BECKER-GEORGE – As the year draws to a close, IHS is saying goodbye to four staff members. Philip Palko, Joe Socol, and Richard Wilhelmy are our retiring teachers. The High Arrow presented all three staff members with a Q&A as a send-off, and here are their responses.
Q: How long have you been at IHS?
Palko: 33 years
Socol: 25 years
Wilhelmy: 19 years
Q: Are there any other schools you’ve worked at?
Socol: Harmony Area School District, St Bernard’s Learning Center, Leechburg School District, and Marion Center School District.
Q: What subjects have you taught during your career?
Palko: Science Technology and Society, Chemistry, AP Chemistry, Honors Chemistry, Environmental Science
Socol: Driver Education and Physical Education
Wilhelmy: Chemistry (including college), Environmental Science, General Science
Q: What will you miss most about IHS?
Palko: The admin, staff and teachers I got to see everyday.
Socol: The dedicated and hard working teachers and staff. Everyone works so hard to do what has to be done! They have my total respect.
Wilhelmy: I enjoy interacting with the students.
Q: What will you miss least?
Palko: Various things that caused stress.
Socol: The paperwork! From the school district, from the PA Department of Ed. and from PennDot.
Wilhelmy: Getting up in the dark.
Q: What are some of your retirement plans?
Palko: Continue to coach tennis and fish a lot. Visit my kids who are in various places around the eastern US.
Socol: I would like to take some time for myself. As a hobby, I would like to begin to repair and refinish older furniture and other antiques.
Wilhelmy: Long list – includes some travel (as Covid diminishes), catching up on a number of projects that have been postponed, hiking (with my border collie, Obi) & agility training, gardening
Q: If you could talk to yourself when you first started out, what advice would you give to yourself?
Palko: Get to know the people around me at IHS better. Spend more time doing the little things like crossword puzzles in the faculty lounge with then principal Dr. Cilo.
Socol: That I picked the correct career choice. Although it will be very difficult to achieve and then complete, I am helping many, many students. Stay with it.
Wilhelmy: There will be good days and bad days; the good days outnumber the bad.
Q: What’s one thing you wish people knew about your job that they probably don’t?
Palko: Teachers are amazing people and care about kids more than anyone could know.
Socol: How extremely difficult it is to teach a student how to drive both correctly and safely! It is extremely difficult!
Wilhelmy: There is a lot of behind-the-scenes effort put into teaching.
Q: What was your first job ever?
Palko: Painting Crew at Shadyside Academy in Fox Chapel
Socol: When I was in high school, my first job was a Blue Spruce Park where I was a maintenance worker.
Wilhelmy: As a teen – mowing lawns and lifeguard; as an adult – research chemist for ALCOA
Q: How many donuts could you eat in one sitting?
Palko: All of them. I did eat a dozen once way back when…..
Socol: Sorry, I don’t eat donuts.
Wilhelmy: Too many (especially if chocolate-covered vanilla cream filled)
Q: What is one food you could not live without?
Palko: My mom’s Lasagna
Socol: I just love Raisin Filled Cookies!
Wilhelmy: Fresh fruit (be it apples, bananas, berries, clementines, etc.)
Q: If you had to teach any other subject than the one you teach, what would it be and why?
Palko: Concert Band. I love music, particularly movie soundtracks. I was the field conductor for Marching Band in HS and still find myself conducting as I listen to music. I performed with the Westmoreland Symphonic Wind Ensemble for 30 years.
Socol: On the high school level (not college or advanced), I always wanted to teach a Basic Anatomy class.
Wilhelmy: Outside of science, it would probably be a math class or related course like computer programming.
Q: Name one song that would play anytime you walked into a room for the rest of your life:
Palko: The Avengers Title Track
Socol: “Bad Moon Rising” (Creedence Clearwater Revival) and “Running on Empty” (Jackson Browne).
Wilhelmy: Tough one – I like a lot of different songs, mainly up-beat from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.
The retiring teachers will be dearly missed by all, and we wish them the best of luck in their retirement.
Kaylee is a senior and a second-year reporter for the High Arrow. She enjoys playing video games and plays in the school marching band. She is excited to get back into writing articles for the school.