In 1945 Neil Horlacher's Grade 10 teacher put him on a path that led to a successful career as a mechanic. But 22 years later his wife, Josephine, who believed he was a born teacher, urged him to take a job instructing apprentice mechanics at Lethbridge College. Horlacher taught by day and took classes by night to upgrade for university entrance, and the following September entered the University of Alberta as a Vocational Education major.
They started me as a second-year student because I had my mechanics license,” Horlacher says. Within months Horlacher was hired to teach Power Technology at Kate Andrews High School in Coaldale. “I took summer school and night school at the University of Lethbridge and got my Bachelor of Education in 1972."
Horlacher taught for 24 years at Kate Andrews High School (KAHS). His students consistently ranked among Canada’s best. In 1979, after they placed first in Alberta and second in Canada at the National Chrysler Troubleshooting Contest, Horlacher was commissioned to write the provincial curriculum for Power Technology.
“I saw how much Dad enjoyed teaching and how much the students enjoyed being around him,” says Rod Horlacher, who followed in his father’s footsteps and became an Industrial Education teacher.” In 1983 he too was hired by KAHS, where he taught Electronics.
Helping students discover and develop strengths beyond book-learning was deeply gratifying to the Horlachers.
“Those who struggled academically proved to themselves they have other skills that are good,” says Neil. “Seeing them succeed is what made the job,” adds Rod, who notes he and his father still hear from former students. “They’ve become lifelong friends.”
Shortly after Neil retired in 1992, Rod took over teaching mechanics and added woodworking, sheet metal and welding. “Dad had taught me so much, I already knew how to do it,” he says. He continued to teach another 26 years. “That’s 50 years that a Horlacher has been at Kate Andrews High School.”
The joy of teaching persists. At 91, Neil is now showing Rod how to fix his 1929 Ford Model "A". “The teaching gene is in our family,” says Rod. “We want to learn.”
Writer: Elizabeth McLachlan | Photographer: Rob Olson
Other rural-related Faculty of Education stories:
Faculty of Education Dean's Message: "I had the privilege of starting my teaching career at a very small school in central Alberta … "
A Circle is Complete: Nathan Comstock (BA/BEd ’19)
Land of a Hundred One-roomed Schools: Art and Rena Loewen
A Community in the Middle of Nowhere
Teacher Still Learning at 105-years-old: Alma McLachlan
Wellness is Ranching: Danny Balderson
For more information please contact:
Dean's Office • Faculty of Education
University of Lethbridge
Learn more about the Faculty of Education: Legacy Magazine (2008-2019)
Twitter: @ULethbridgeEdu Website: uleth.ca/education
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