by Terrence Huie
“Don’t judge – don’t assign virtue and value,” said Herb Reichert, an art appreciation teacher at the Brentwood Campus at Suffolk County Community College. Reichert is a teacher that doesn’t teach just to pay the bills, he teaches to provide students an insight into life through his own personal experiences.
Reichert has a refreshingly unconventional approach to teaching, inspiring students by bringing attention to the underlying art that pervades and affects their everyday lives without them knowing it. He teaches his students about the importance of living through the interactions with people and things in their lives, and he truly wants his class to make a lasting impact on their lives.
“I love the students – there’s something about them that I love, but can’t quite put my finger on it,” said Reichert, who stumbled upon his passion for teaching in 1999, when he received a call from Suffolk to teach art appreciation. “I had never taught before, and didn’t think much of teachers growing up – I always thought they were dumb, I never would’ve guessed that I would become one of them,” Reichert admitted ironically.
The way he got his teaching job at Suffolk was just as unconventional as his teaching methods. He was working as an art critic in New York harbor at the time, and had responded to a call from the Grant campus to come in and teach an art appreciation class Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. He showed up early that Thursday morning to get his roster, faculty ID, and parking permit. After teaching the class that day, he noticed a woman waiting by the door with a stack of papers in her hands. She approached him saying, “We didn’t hire you to teach the class, we called you to come in to interview for the job. But judging from what I just saw, we’re going to let you keep the class.” Reichert, both surprised and excited, started to take his first class head-on.
Reichert is a jack-of-all-trades, accumulating a vast array of skills working as a carpenter, plumber, auto-mechanic, and art critic – just to name a few, before becoming a college professor. This work experience is what gives him his eccentricity and down-to-earth demeanor that students immediately develop a relation and love for.
“I held in all bodily functions so I could stay in your class for the entire three hours,” said Brian B., a student in his art appreciation course at the Brentwood campus.
“I wish every one of my classes was like your class,” said another student, Cindy Castillo. This adoration from his students showcases his natural propensity for teaching, but more importantly, speaks volumes about the quality of character that he possesses.
Reichert, 61, developed autism during his childhood in Chicago. He has always had a passion for art, and if he weren’t teaching, he’d want to leave a legacy behind for his family artistically, particularly in photography. He also enjoys sculpting and painting, but photography is special to him. Reichert also teaches at Dowling, and although he may not leave a legacy behind in photography, his students would contend that he leaves a legacy in every classroom he teaches.
“Interacting with people, places and things is really the quality of life; interacting with the world in a mindful way – you will receive love, and want to give it in return,” preached Reichert, making it as transparent as possible that in the end, life is about friends and family, not material possessions.