(WETM) – Meet Harry Blish, who has served as an educator for 50 years. He began his career in the late 1960s as a music teacher, after receiving his music degree from SUNY Potsdam, formerly Potsdam State.

Harry moved from Binghamton to Elmira Heights and continued teaching, inspiring others as his former teachers inspired him.

“When he got me into the bassoon, and really studying music, and working at it. I said, you know, I’ve got to do this for a living. I want to help kids,” Blish added.

He has held pretty much ever role you could imagine in the Heights, everything from dean of students to athletic director.

After his career as a teacher, he transitioned to the school board, wanting to serve the community and families from a different perspective. He held the roles of board Vice President and President. After 20 years on the board, he is set to retire in June.

“I came to Elmira Heights in 1968. Then I transitioned into teaching. I taught the high school band and I’ve done junior high band, elementary band, and general music,” Blish said. “Then as I got into that, they transition me into part-time music and part-time dean of students, taking care of the attendance problems and discipline problems, so that was interesting.”

For Harry, it is about more than managing finances; it is about maintaining the XXX in the Heights. As a board member, he has fought against consolidation, believing the district should remain small and intimate. The district has never consolidated and still is a place where everyone knows everyone. Also, he has battled against budget cuts, but rarely has cut a faculty member or program. He managed the recent stimulus money to ward off tax increases and continue to provide a quality education for students.

“I wanted to make sure that all of our students get a quality education for a reasonable amount of money. With the stimulus money we got this year, we have not had to cut positions or lay off people. We have not had to do that in at least 10 or 11 years. We’ve never gotten to the point in cuts where we had to get rid of staff or cut a program,” Blish added.

As he moves to retirement, Harry has one last message for the Elmira Heights community, the town he proudly served for 50 years.

“All of the Golden Apple the accolades is because of the students and the support I get from the district to do what I wanted to do,” he continued “I want to take this opportunity to thank many people who have helped and guided me through the years. 30 years of teaching and being dean of students and 20 years being a member of the Board of Education. I have given 50+ years of my life as teacher, coach, and educator to the school district and community I love.”

Do you have a favorite teacher or educator? Nominate them for the Golden Apple Award here.

To view the full interview with Harry, click the video below.