Lynn Saltsman is retiring after 25 years teaching biology and chemistry at Canajoharie High School.
Mrs. Saltsman was 40 years old before she became a teacher. After graduating from Johnstown High School, she had started college seeking a business degree, but realized that was not where she wanted to be. Instead, she chose to become a stay-at-home mom and to help run her and her husband’s machine shop.
Once her children were older, she decided to take an English class at FMCC.
“I got an ‘A’ and thought this is fun,” she said.
She went back to FMCC full-time. Her science teacher Don Rogers made science so interesting and so much fun, she decided to go into science. She was good at school, and soon other students came to her for help with their studies. It was then she realized she wanted to be a teacher.
She admits there is a bit of irony in becoming a teacher.
“I had gone back to school so I could talk to someone besides children. So, I spent the next 25 years talking to children,” she said.
Mrs. Saltsman earned her associate’s degree at FMCC and her bachelor’s in biology from St. Rose. She earned her master’s in Education from SUNY Albany in 1992. She discovered she had taken enough chemistry classes to earn two teaching certifications, one in biology and one in chemistry. Despite the credentials. she had no job prospects following graduation.
That changed on the Friday before Labor Day when she received a phone call from Canajoharie High School principal Don Bowden, asking if she were interested in a job teaching biology at Canajoharie.
“He told me I could come in for an interview and I asked if I could just tell him how good I was over the phone,” she laughed.
Dr. Bowden insisted on the interview. She was interviewed on Labor Day and got the job. She started teaching biology the next day without the chance to create lesson plans or to review the curriculum. And she remained a part of the Canajoharie family for her entire career.
Mrs. Saltsman’s true love, however, was chemistry. She applied for an opening in Canajoharie several years later, but lost out to another candidate. When that person did not work out in 2002, she stepped in. She has been teaching chemistry ever since.
Taking a lesson from her college science teacher, she has worked to inspire students to love science and to pursue science careers. One of her most powerful tools will remain her legacy—the annual Science Spectrum. Each spring she has taken her science club students to East Hill to wow youngsters with wild demonstrations of physics, biology, and chemistry. Flowers shatter after being dipped in liquid nitrogen; electricity splits water into flammable hydrogen and oxygen gas; and dry ice makes a spoon “sing.” Her high school emissaries have sown the seeds for the next generation of science students.
Her enthusiasm also spread into her classroom. A former student recalls Mrs. Saltsman’s physical demonstration of light. Mrs. Saltsman stood barefooted on a counter representing the stored energy in an atom. As she leaped off onto the floor, she released her energy, tossing bright yellow margarine covers of “light” at her class.
She will also be remembered for the many international summer trips she organized and chaperoned. Thanks to her efforts, Canajoharie students traveled to Costa Rica, Belize, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Italy.
She is one of Canajoharie’s two Fulbright Scholars. She traveled to Japan to study high school education. While there, she was shocked to discover the lax attitude the Japanese students had toward their education. During school, they stood and left the classroom, talked to friends and even took naps. Grades did not mean much. After school from 5-9, however, their parents hired tutors to teach them the subjects they thought were important. She shook her head as she wondered why parents paid for an education their children should have gotten for free.
In retirement, she plans to spend the first year catching up on projects around the house. After that she hopes to visit some of the famous sites in the U.S. such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. She will mix that in with her and her husbands shared passion—cars. They have a ’31 Ford Model A Hotrod that they have taken across the country. They even took it to the Bonneville Salt Flats where they opened it up to its top speed. And if time allows, she hopes they will get to finishing another project, a ’27 For Roadster.
Thank you Mrs. Saltsman for your years of teaching and fun!