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Teaching peace

Heath retired teacher starts education foundation

Recorder/Franz
John McDonnell Tierney in his office in Shelburne Falls.

Recorder/Franz John McDonnell Tierney in his office in Shelburne Falls. Purchase photo reprints »

SHELBURNE FALLS — Author, educator and musician John McDonnell Tierney of Heath believes the world can become a better place if enough people take action.

“Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something,” says Tierney, who has recently started The Peaceful Educator Foundation Inc., a nonprofit with the ambitious goal of “exponentially increasing the number of humans actively contributing to a peaceful, just and sustainable future.”

Tierney says the Peaceful Educator will do that by providing free educational resources to school groups, libraries, parents, teachers and civic groups. It will also give people the support and motivation to do something about the world issues they care about the most.

Tierney, the author of “On Being Human: A Work in Progress,” will also be giving a talk at Boswell’s Books Thursday night at 7 p.m.

About three years ago, Tierney underwent a life-saving heart surgery; but coming so close to death made him rethink what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. Also, the birth of his first grandson five years ago made him worry about what kind of world new generations will inherit.

“Oh my god, I thought, I could have grandchildren alive for another 100 years,” he said. “I had to come to a very different conclusion about whether I wanted to end my life as a retired professor, and fade away, or do something else.”

“Quite honestly, it was all about my grand-kids,” he said. “I’m energized about it.”

Tierney taught psychology at Greenfield Community College, and is also a member of the Peace and Justice Studies Association and a board member of the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice.

Before moving to Heath with his wife, Patricia, Tierney spent 16 years as a music professor at the Greater Hartford Community College. He has also taught grade school during his 45 years as an educator.

“Now, I’m beginning my third career — as a peace educator — at 67 years old,” he said. “And I’m very happy.”

The peaceful educator’s first offering is a program called “In the Name of a Child: Creating a Peaceful, Just and Sustainable Future.” It’s a multimedia presentation of 20 to 30 minutes, modelled on a TED talk. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and is now an organization that holds conferences and circulates Internet-based podcasts of its innovative speakers.

In a similar way, Tierney hopes his new organization will plant the seeds for a better future.

Tierney said the word “educator” in the organization’s title refers to anyone who might educate children, whether they are parents, teachers, or someone whose behavior becomes an example for children.

“When government officials behave badly toward each other, they are modelling that behavior for kids,” he said. “Anyone who is a model for children is an educator. I want people to see that.”

One goal is to educate people about issues that Tierney says are “flying under the radar,” such as the hunger crisis, air-quality issues, the obesity crisis and bullying. The second is to provide motivation to take action about the issues that matter most to each individual.

“I want people to say: ‘Even if nobody else in the world helps, I’m going to do it.’ If people do little things that makes them feel good,” he said, “maybe they’ll do some bigger things.”

Tierney says initiatives like his are growing. He says millions of people are creating networks in hopes of solving everything from human rights abuses to global warming. But in a world of 7 billion people, “there are simply not enough people implementing solutions or supporting those who are.”

This year, Tierney has spent his time setting up the organization’s structure, getting an office space in the Bridge of Flowers Business Center at 5 State St., and in creating a website and the “In the Name of a Child” program. This presentation is now available to groups, for any donation ranging from $1 to $100.

Tierney is applying for grants and fundraising. More programs from the foundation may be announced in January.

Tierney hopes to work with others to create talks, workshops, seminars, online learning programs, videos, guidebooks and special events. The website is:

www.thepeacefuleducator.com

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or (413) 772-0261, ext. 277

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