After more than 50 years in the electrical field, including nearly a quarter of a century lighting the spark of learning for his students at Ulster BOCES, teacher Gary Goodstal is going to give retirement a try… for the second time.
The Saugerties resident served in the U.S. Navy and then worked for IBM for 28 years before beginning a second career teaching at Ulster BOCES Adult Career Education Center in 1994. Goodstal was responsible for educating hundreds of students about everything from basic wiring to semiconductor theory.
“Gary has been one of the rocks our school has rested on,” said director Mary Jalloh.
Goodstal grew up in Towanda, a small rural town northwest of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. It was in the Navy that Goodstal first discovered his interest in electricity. As an interior communications technician, he learned a lot about radar, maintaining the ship’s telephone equipment, wiring, blue prints and electronics.
Learning a trade in the Navy was the best thing that happened to him, Goodstal said, giving him a sense of purpose. Upon leaving the Navy, he enrolled in the Indiana Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering. He met an IBM recruiter looking to fill electrical engineering positions at their Poughkeepsie plant, and feeling that it would improve his family’s standard of living, Goodstal took the job.
IBM was a company known for encouraging its employees to serve the community. Goodstal took this mantra to heart and decided to try his hand at teaching electronics as an adjunct instructor at Ulster County Community College, now called SUNY Ulster. While working full-time and teaching, he also earned his master’s degree in engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
He taught at Ulster County Community College for ten years before retiring from the classroom in 1978. In 1992, he also retired from IBM, a decision that didn’t last very long.
“I guess I flunked retirement,” he joked.
Two years after retiring from IBM, Goodstal answered an advertisement for a trade math teacher in the electrical apprentice program at Ulster BOCES Adult Career Education Center.
Over the next 23 years, he taught many classes there, including motor control wiring, basic electricity, semi-conductor theory, and photovoltaic technology.
Teaching at Ulster BOCES was very fulfilling for Goodstal.
“I believe I had an impact on my students,” he said, explaining that the best part of his job was when students came back to thank him for helping them pass rigorous entrance exams with companies that offered them better salaries. “Helping to improve people’s lives feels good.”
Former student Scott Record said, “Mr. Goodstal was one of the most knowledgeable teachers I knew. He always pushed us to learn every subject thoroughly. You couldn’t skate through his classes; you had to prove you could do the work.” But at the same time, Record said, Goodstal was a thoughtful teacher. “He gave me a reference letter that made me proud of everything I had learned.”
“Electricity is what drives the world and can open the doors to good jobs,” said Goodstal. “And it will continue to provide good opportunities, especially in the fields of solar and wind energy.”
While working at Ulster BOCES, Goodstal also authored the book, “Electrical Theory for Renewable Energy (Go Green with Renewable Energy Resources).”
In February, he made the difficult decision to retire from teaching once again. He and his wife would like to do a little traveling, spend time with their grandchildren and do some antiquing, he said. And, he added, “quite possibly write a second book.”
Although Ulster BOCES is thankful for Goodstal’s years of service, his absence will leave a deep hole. “He has helped hundreds of students learn about the fundamentals of electricity. His positive attitude and deep commitment to his students has made him respected throughout the industry. He will be greatly missed,” said director Jalloh.