New algebra teacher reminisces on diverse past

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Teacher Jeff Berkeley relaxes in his chair after school hours.

Natasha Dardashti, staff writer
Lauren Hannani, staff writer

New algebra teacher Jeff Berkeley has experienced various adventures from training in the army during the Vietnam War to travelling around Europe to pursue his love of chess.

After graduating high school at age 16, Berkeley decided to join the army.

“The army’s a drag. It was probably the smartest thing I ever did, though. It straightened me out; I was a drug-using, long-haired teenager at the time and it turned me into a man. You go from being a boy in a boy’s world to being a boy in a man’s world, and the only way you can survive is to become a man in a man’s world,” Berkeley said.

Once his two years of living at an army base in Germany had passed, Berkeley decided that he wanted to experience another aspect of life besides firing bazookas and making army buddies.

“I wanted to see the world, and I did. I had a chance to go to Europe, and I hitchhiked around France and Belgium and Luxembourg and Germany, so I got to see a big chunk of the world, at least of Europe. It’s a great thing,” he said.

Along with learning about various cultures throughout Europe, Berkeley benefited from an old skill that he held on to from when he was a young child.

“I’ve been playing chess since I was a little kid. My dad taught me when I was about six, then he stopped playing me when I was about nine or 10 and started beating him. I used to travel around Europe going to chess tournaments. I used to be a tournament chess player,” he said.

While travelling throughout Europe, a “neat” experience while seeing the Beatles in 1974 still stands out.

“We travelled to London for a concert. The concert was at a place called Wembley Stadium, the most famous stadium in London, and we were about [an arm’s distance away] from John Lennon. They started playing ‘Blackbird’, which is a famous Beatles song. And John Lennon was standing right there in front of the stage,” he said.

Overall, travelling has greatly shaped Berkeley into the person he is today.

“Any time you experience another culture you broaden your perspective on your life, you know,” Berkeley said. “When you see how others live, you can’t help but widen your understanding of humanity, be the great life or the poor life. It all goes in the same pot to make you a wiser individual.”

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