Area 'hunter ed' teacher honored
Bill Chessman just can't help himself.
The Forest Hills man put in 35 years as an educator, working as a teacher and guidance counselor. Then, several years ago, he retired.
And he's still teaching.
He's doing it well enough that he recently was named the 2012 hunter-trapper education instructor of the year for the Pennsylvania Game Commission's 10-county southwest region.
The commission annually honors one instructor from each of its six regions. Chessman, who has been teaching “hunter ed” for 45 years, was nominated by Allegheny County conservation officer Beth Fife.
She singled him out for teaching not only hunter ed, but also for doing firearms training, Boy Scout events, youth programs and more.
“Bill, he goes over the top. He does so much stuff, it's just amazing to me,” Fife said.
Chessman said his motivation is simple.
“It's rewarding to see kids go out there and participate in a sport that I've enjoyed all my life,” he said.
Things have changed in hunter education, Chessman said. The course has gone from four hours to 10 hours and back, with lots of “cyber” homework involved. But the “kids are kids,” same as ever, he said.
“They just have more distractions these days, especially if you want to get them into hunting,” he said.
Chessman does most of his teaching at Pitcairn-Monroeville Sportsmen's Club. But he's taught elsewhere, including in the Wilkinsburg School District.
“I taught 45 Amish boys in a one-room schoolhouse with a kerosene lamp,” Chessman said. “We couldn't show the movies we normally did, of course. And things were a little formal at first. But by the time we were done, they were switching hats with us and we were switching hats with them. That was kind of neat.”
Chessman's family surprised him with news of his award when he was teaching his most recent class at Pitcairn-Monroeville. It is an honor well deserved, said his son, Jerry.
“If you think about the impact he's had, all of the thousands and thousands of kids who have been out hunting and shooting and trapping over all the years because he taught them, it's amazing,” he said.
Chessman is humble about what he does. There are lots of good instructors, all volunteers like himself who are “just as deserving, if not more so,” he said.
But he enjoys teaching. That, combined with his love for the outdoors, keeps him going.
“It's been a fun, productive activity,” he said.