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Names

03/09/07 12:00AM By Mary Barrosse-Schwartz
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(HOST) What's in a name? Commentary Mary Barrosse Schwartz says - sometimes - there's more than you'd think.

(BARROSSE) I love to collect names that reflect what the people who have them actually do.

For hundreds of years, this was the norm in Western culture. You were a Miller, a Thatcher, a Smith or a Baker - quite literally.

Vermont's deer herd is managed by John Buck. The Basin Harbor Club is a vacation resort on the shores of Lake Champlain. And it's owned by the Beach family, who also have a cat named Sandy. I once knew a cook whose name was - well - Mr. Cook.

And then there's Mr. Muench. As you may know, muench means man in German. In Yiddish the word means: a person having admirable characteristics, such as fortitude and firmness of purpose. I know a Mr. Muench. And he is the best example of a person being like their name that I've ever met.

Mr. Muench is a high school teacher at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester. He teaches an advanced placement psychology course so academically rigorous that although my daughter received only a B in his class, she was so well prepared that she received the highest possible score of a five on the AP test.

When our daughter transferred to Burr and Burton as a sophomore, Mr. Muench became her advisor and took her under his wing.

Rose is shy and inclined to invisibility but Mr. Muench wouldn't allow such a thing. He's musical and he greeted Rose almost every morning with a different Rose-song, like "Rosalita" or "The Yellow Rose of Texas".

He encouraged her to become a Senior leader and to apply for national honor society. She wasn't happy about extending herself, but at his encouragement she did and was rewarded.

He also listens when students are troubled, and helps them cope with all the challenges that high school throws at our kids. He helps them stay healthy and avoid drugs and alcohol.

In short, I think Mr. Muench is a muench - a man with admirable qualities including fortitude and firmness of purpose. And I'm grateful he's at our high school every day, teaching our children, and helping them with the challenge of acquiring admirable qualities of their own.

Mary Barrosse Schwartz is a children's advocate and consultant living in East Dorset.
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