Verbatim Column

If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

Who knew that we are surrounded by teachers (or wanna be teachers), mentors, coaches, and others whose life experiences have led them to share wisdom and useful life skills?! None of us skates through life without the help of another—there are some fine examples here of people who have found the value of extending a hand to someone along the path.

For these and others in the industry who are like-minded, I suggest (this is an outright plug) you explore the nationwide, volunteer-based mentorship program Knowledge Exchange. Take your willingness to share knowledge within our industry and volunteer to mentor an individual waiting to be matched into a virtual mentorship. Make an impact in our industry this spring and summer.

In this column, adopted from the familiar “Heard on the Street” format, we offer our responders a chance to answer the question posed in the title. These are their replies reported verbatim.



I have spent half of my career in education as a special education teacher and administrator.  In addition to the fundamental curriculum required to teach, I always would find a way to teach what I call Life Long Lessons/Skills to my students and staff, which are applicable to all.   I consider three of these essential life skills to be critical in developing adults to be prepared for work in today’s society.

  1. The ability to effectively Communicate both written and orally is a critical skill to possess.
  2. Time Management allows individuals to organize their daily schedules, establish priorities, complete tasks, and develop responsibility.
  3. Problem Solving requires individuals to adapt a to a variety of challenging situations and make informed decisions based on fact not emotion.

You can add the following skills to the list; interpersonal skills, critical-thinking, empathy, and negotiation and I’ll stop there, because I’m trying not to write an article.

Jerry Schimmel

P3 Propane Safety

 Cumberland, Rhode Island


I would teach Leadership. My first thought when I read this question was leadership, because I’ve been in leadership roles throughout my life. I was told at a young age that I was a natural leader, and I’ve worked continuously to develop my skill set. Then, I thought, that sounds presumptuous, I can’t say that. I thought about other skills I have, to produce a better answer. I decided to reach out to a few people close to me and said “if I were to teach, what would I be good at teaching? ” They each, independently, without hesitation said “leadership”. One said, “leadership or listening.” I believe being a great listener is one of the most important elements to being a good leader.

Lauren Clark


Toledo, Ohio


If I were to teach something it would be preparing young people for life in the workforce. It is important early in a career to understand how to complete tasks as well as carry yourself professionally. Strive for success and appreciate the failures. Every experience is a learning opportunity. Believe in yourself and be open to constructive criticism.

It is also important to learn what life balance is and how to stay focused on priorities. How we act and react is as important as any formal education. Hard work does payoff.

 Ed Varney

Rego Products

 McKinney, Texas


One topic that I would not be able to teach is patience; my wife would testify that it’s not my strength! But what I could teach is how to pay attention to details. This is something that my father taught me, and I have worked to pass it on to anyone I have mentored.

Jason Soulon

Westmor Industries

Shawnee, Kansas


This question made me immediately think of mentoring and coaching.  Seventeen years ago, I began my career in this industry and while I had strong leaders help me later in my career, I wish I would have had that guidance early on.  Helping others develop and achieve their professional goals is such a rewarding process.  I currently am Chair of our Women’s Impact Network and have been for years as I enjoy watching and being a part of people’s growth and development.  Some introduce as me as their life coach, and I’m proud and honored as I truly have a desire to make a positive impact on others.

Hayley Karicofe


Churchville, Virginia


I LOVE to teach, so it wouldn’t be a ‘had to’ for me!  My favorite subject to teach would be customer service!  I spent 20 years owning my own retail business and honed customer service skills.  After that stint, I joined my brothers in their computer software business, I have now spent more than 20 years in the propane industry in customer support.   Our Dad started his propane business in the 50s and lived by the theory that everyone can sell propane, but everyone can’t or doesn’t offer great customer service.  So, he built his business with honesty and great customer service.  My brothers and I have built our business on the same principles.   As our business grows, we continue to educate and offer training for our staff to stress the goal of our company to give great customer service!!

Susan Peterson

Rural Computer Consultants

Bird Island, Minnesota


I love what I do and I love seeing people grow in life and in their career, so I would want to teach / coach / mentor personal and career development. I have enjoyed an amazing 30+ year career in this industry and have made so many friendships and witnessed firsthand their amazing career growth. I’m humbled and happy to say, I have had the opportunity to work with more than my share of hungry and dedicated folks along the way–seeing that is exciting. At times I see people that want it all now without doing the work and others that just don’t see the big picture in terms of where to focus, experiences to pursue, etc. Age and experience I think can be helpful in stretching people in ways that prepare them for more. Otherwise, we’re just working a job with multiples of the same basic experience.

Boyd H. McGathey

Energy Distribution Partners

Parkville, Missouri


I would teach NOT TO WORRY.  In this day and age everything is scary and unknown. Concentrate, be focused, be attentive, problem solve and KNOW that it will all work out.

Laurie Irish-Jones

Irish Propane

Buffalo, New York



If I had the ability and knowledge, I would teach music.  Music has been a big part of my life ever since I was a child.  To be able to pass that appreciation on to someone would be very rewarding!

Rosie Buschur

McMahan’s Bottle Gas

Dayton, Ohio


I enjoy teaching math to adults who may be working towards their GED or hoping to enroll in a program that will help improve their current station in life. It’s not very complicated stuff, just basic algebra and geometry where people can see real-world applications that can help them get past their doubts about learning math.

 Bruce Swiecicki

National Propane Gas Association

 Tinley Park, Illinois


I don’t really consider myself an expert in anything in our industry or much of a teacher for that matter. But they tell you, teach what you know so….

If I HAD to teach, I would go back to what I know, horses. I used to teach and train for a living before I met that gas guy!! So, I would go back to giving riding lessons and, selectively, breaking horses again.

Judy Taranovich

Proctor Gas

Proctor, Vermont



Professionally trained or life-learned, valuable teachers are among us. For me, one of the gratifying aspects of becoming a mentor in our industry was realizing the reciprocal nature of both sides of a mentorship–in other words, “when one teaches, two learn” (anonymous quote).

Benjamin Franklin notably brought his wisdom to the topic when he stated,





Nancy Coop, Cetane Associates


This column was first published in Butane-Propane News in February 2022.

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— Steve Lombardi, Brodeur’s Oil, Moosup, CT