Beloved Adams Teacher and Coach Steve Shaltz 'Inspired Curiosity'
Friends, colleagues and former students reflect on their social studies teacher and wrestling coach, who died suddenly this week at age 51.
He wore flannel shirts in the summer and shorts in the winter. He liked to read and was known for his geography haikus. He loved sports and held stock in the Green Bay Packers.
And he once helped a good friend rack up a $750 phone bill by talking for two to three hours a day about high school wrestling.
Steve Shaltz, a beloved wrestling and track coach and a longtime teacher at Adams High School, died Monday at his home in Washington Township. He was 51. His funeral is planned for 5 p.m. Thursday in Romeo. The cause of his death was not yet known, school officials said.
"He was an outstanding teacher and a dedicated member of our Adams family," said Adams Principal Kevin Cumming. "This is a big loss for our school and for our district.
"The kids loved coming to his classes. He pushed them in the classroom. But he was a little eccentric and the kids really loved him."
Cumming said students learned of their teacher's death on the public announcement system on Monday. Counselors have been made available to students. It is finals week at Adams; the last day of school for the district is Friday. Cumming said students have already expressed their desire to create a memorial or somehow pay tribute to Shaltz; Cumming said he is waiting to speak with Shaltz's family before making any plans.
Shaltz taught Philosophy and AP History at Adams. He has been with the district since 1989, teaching at Reuther Middle School, West Middle School and Brooklands Elementary School before coming to Adams.
In 2007, Shaltz was inducted into the National Honor Roll's Outstanding American Teachers.
“Steve touched many students’ lives throughout the district, both in the classroom and on the athletic field,” said Cumming. “He had a quick wit and lots of funny sayings that endeared him to his students.
"Steve and his trademark flannel shirts will be greatly missed by all of us.”
A mentor, a teacher, a friend
Shaltz was in his 10th season as an assistant wrestling coach at Adams; he was a high school wrestler himself at Romeo High School.
Mike Holtz is the Adams head wrestling coach. Holtz has known Shaltz half of his life: they first met back when Holtz himself was a student at Adams.
On Wednesday, Holtz called Shaltz one of his best friends.
"He was a mentor," Holtz said. "He was a teacher to many and a coach to many. He was willing to give the shirt off his back to those around him. He loved to help others and definitely put his students and his family first."
When Holtz first accepted the wrestling coach position at Adams five years ago, he was living in Florida. He said he talked to Shaltz, the assistant coach, during the time between his hiring and his moving back to Michigan — sometimes for two to three hours at a time. (Hence, the $750 phone bill.)
"One of his most admirable qualities was his honesty. He would let you know what he was thinking and he gave great advice," Holtz said.
Another admirable quality? What Holtz and others at Adams called his "Shaltz-isms."
"He was definitely unique. He had a lot of quirks and sayings. I told the boys on the team this week that when they are driving or in class and something reminds them of Steve, that they are going to smile and know he is looking down on them."
He inspired curiosity
Marc Santoro graduated from Adams in 2006; he is a former captain of the wrestling team.
"It is difficult to find a guy who was more beloved by almost all students," Santoro said. "He carried a unique energy, was constantly entertaining, and taught in a way that inspired curiosity yet commanded respect. He knew how to make you have fun and how to make you work hard.
"It's difficult to put into words how the man was so widely regarded at Adams but I assure you no loss of the sort could be having a bigger impact on more alumni."
On the Rochester Patch Facebook page, Adams graduate Kristy Lewis offered similar words of praise for her beloved teacher.
"From 'activate the gamma shield and secure the parameter' to the my-country-is-better-than-your-country debates and world geography haikus, Mr. Shaltz taught us how learning could be fun," Lewis wrote.
"I will always remember how he added a question on my test for my prom date to ask me to prom. He was a one-of-a-kind teacher and I am blessed to have had him. He impacted so many of his students and will be greatly missed.
"Rest in peace, Mr. Shaltz."
According to his obituary posted online at henrymmalburg.com, Shaltz is survived by his daughter, Caroline Shaltz of Rochester, his mother, Marion Shaltz of Romeo, his brother, Tom (Carol) Shaltz of New Hudson and his niece, Michaela, and nephew, William. He was preceded in death by his father, Warren Shaltz, in 1994.
Funeral services will take place at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Henry M. Malburg Funeral Home in Romeo. Visitation is planned for 2 - 8 p.m.
Holtz, the wrestling coach, said he plans to be there for the entire 2-8 p.m. visitation.
"He would have done the same for me," Holtz said. "We were blessed and fortunate to have known him."