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Morning Sun
  • Teller leaving Pitt State after 43 years

  • When Dr. Stephen Teller came to Pittsburg State in 1967, the English Department was in Russ Hall. When Grubbs Hall was completed in 1969, Teller and the English Department moved over to the new building. Ever since, Teller has occupied the same office.

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  • When Dr. Stephen Teller came to Pittsburg State in 1967, the English Department was in Russ Hall. When Grubbs Hall was completed in 1969, Teller and the English Department moved over to the new building. Ever since, Teller has occupied the same office.
    That office will have a new tenant later this year, as Teller has completed his phased retirement and will leave Pittsburg State and the English Department.
    “I enjoy being a fount of knowledge,” Teller said. “I enjoy young people trying to pick my brains. I have an enormous amount of trivial knowledge in my head. Give me a line from Shakespeare, and I can usually tell you the play, the speaker, and the significance of that line.”
    He should be able to. He’s taught Shakespeare at Pittsburg State every year for 43 years. He has also taught World Masterpieces,  drama, Elizabethan/Jacobean drama, tragedies, English drama, mythology, Film and Literature, Bible as Literature, science fiction and general literature.
    But among his favorite works are those by L. Frank Baum. In fact, Teller served as the review editor of the Baum Bugle, a publication by the International Wizard of Oz Club.
    “I don’t like the Wizard of Oz movie so much as I like the Oz books and the writings of Baum and such,” Teller said. “A lot of people don’t realize he wrote more than that. There are more than 40 official Oz books, and more than 200 unofficial Oz books.”
    Over the years, much has changed in teaching at Pittsburg State, even if the content has largely stayed the same. For instance, the English department now boasts its own DVD/video collection, and Teller has a collection of his own.
    “The biggest change was in computers and the media,” Teller said. “When I came, there were no computers, of course. Since they have come to be, every office has its own computer. It’s a truly significant difference. We used to have gradebooks, now they’re on the computer. It’s easy to figure out curves.”
    Curves are always something Teller’s had in his class. It’s important, given how difficult his tests tend to be.
    “I have very hard exams, but I don’t grade hard. It’s always on a curve,” Teller said. “The purpose of a test, I think is to test the limits of the student’s knowledge. If it’s too easy, you don’t establish any limits. The highest grade on the test is always an A+.”
    His difficult tests have caused some students to become frustrated. But Teller said that his hard tests have, on occasion, brought good consequences.
    “One year, I had an older student in my Shakespeare class, and he was having troubles,” Teller said. “On the first exam, he turned it in and said, ‘You win. I quit.’ I went and talked him into staying in the class. He ended up getting a B, I think. He later said that was the class he learned the most from. He later set up an endowed scholarship in the English department.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Teller came to Pittsburg from the Chicago area, which brought a bit of an adjustment. One of those adjustments was in seeing plays and performances, but he said he found he could attend all he wished from Pittsburg.
    “When I first came, I thought the cultural things weren’t here. But I have found I could get to many of them. I’ve seen performances in Kansas City and Tulsa,” Teller said.
    He also has enjoyed acting, performing in several plays in both the Pittsburg Community Theater and the university theater, including roles in many Shakespearean plays, Cyrano de Bergerac, the Diary of Anne Frank, and Fiddler on the Roof.
    “I’ve seen every one of Shakespeare’s plays on the stage, and I’ve seen many of them several times,” Teller said. “I’ve seen hundreds of plays since I’ve been in Pittsburg. It helps that I’m married to the official reviewer in Pittsburg [the Morning Sun's Nikki Patrick]. So I’ve seen most plays on what they call Nikki Night.”
    Teller has done plenty of other things, including being among the founders of the Friends of the Pittsburg Library and the Friends of the Kansas Library.
    There will be a retirement dinner for Teller on April 23. Any students who would like to attend may contact the English department by April 1.
    All told, Teller said he’s enjoyed the opportunity to speak to the students.
    “What I love is literature. What I wanted to do is share that love with others,” Teller said. “Hopefully, I got others to enjoy it also.”
    Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.

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