Dan Tieman: A Teacher To Appreciate

By: Don McNay
By: Don McNay

The first week of May was Teacher Appreciation Week. One that I was glad to have was Dan Tieman.

"I've been taking care of business every day
Taking care of business every way"
-Bachman Turner Overdrive
 "Mr. Holland isn't rich and he isn't famous. He's achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched. We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life."
-         Character in the movie Mr. Holland's Opus
The first week of May was Teacher Appreciation Week.   One that I was glad to have was Dan Tieman. 
Tieman was once an NBA point guard.  He played a season with the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) and was a legend in the rough neighborhood where both he and my parents grew up, in Covington, Kentucky.
To have a neighborhood guy wind up in the National Basketball Association was an awe- inspiring achievement. 
I knew about Dan Tieman (and his brother, Roger) long before Dan became my teacher at Covington Catholic High School.
I heard about Mr. Tieman, but not from Mr. Tieman.
Mr. Tieman never talked about his NBA career.  I heard him reference it one time in the context of a story about someone else.   Otherwise, it never came up.
Covington Catholic was (and is) a sports powerhouse..  Many of  my  teachers had big athletic resumes.   The basketball coach, Dick Maile, was an All-American at Louisiana State University (LSU) and he rarely talked about that, either.  
The lesson learned was that the higher your achievement, the less inclined you are to brag about it.
Dan Tieman is a guy who let his deeds, not his words, do the talking. When he took over as the head coach of Covington Catholic's basketball team, he won over 300 games, more than any other coach of that prestigious program.  
Mr. Tieman has always been a guy focused on 'taking care of business."
Now he is wrapping up a 46-year teaching career at Covington Catholic. 
Tieman taught business courses. I don't think he ever ran a company, but he was a street- smart man and passed those lessons along to us.  
He talked about men who blew their entire paychecks drinking in bars or playing slot machines.  He told us about college students who ran through financial aid money and had to drop out. 
He was a stand-up guy and expected the same out of us. 
34 years later, I still remember his teaching.  It made an impact on my life.
I've seen business instructors who remind me of a character in the Rodney Dangerfield movie, "Back to School," all up in the Ivory Tower and not connected to real life.
That's not Dan Tieman.  Real life is his neighborhood.
Mr.  Tieman reminds me of Carl Kremer at Moeller High School in Cincinnati.  Carl was one of my closest college friends and now he is one of the nation's top high school basketball coaches.  
Both Carl and Mr. Tieman came from working-class backgrounds and maintained their respect for hard work and achievement.
One of the reasons that the 1995 movie, Mr. Holland's Opus, was a huge success was   that Glen Holland, the title character played by Richard Dreyfuss, connected with so many of us. 
It reminded us that teachers have the unique opportunity to change people's lives.  Not many other professions can truly say that.
I hit the jackpot at Covington Catholic.  I came there as an uninterested and troubled child and left as a motivated young adult, with big dreams and aspirations.
I've written several columns about the school's history teachers, Tim Banker and Joe Hackett, and what they did for me.
The school was blessed with a number of outstanding  people, like Dan Tieman, who devoted  their lifetimes to teaching and stayed at the school long enough to impact at least a couple of generations.
High school is a tricky time.  It's where some start to reach for the stars and others fall behind and never catch up.
Dan Tieman had the work ethic and vision to jump from tiny Villa Madonna College (now Thomas More College) to the NBA.   
He spent 46 years at Covington Catholic, teaching thousands of young men the ability to dream big and achieve those big dreams.
I am thankful I was one of them.
Covington Catholic is holding a retirement party for Mr. Tieman in the school gymnasium on Sunday, May 16th. 2 p.m. to 5  p.m.   They have also established the Dan Tieman Scholarship. To donate, you can send a check to: Covington Catholic High School, 1600 Dixie Hwy, Park Hills, KY  41011

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