Professor Haberman knew power of words
By Meg Jones of Journal Sentinel

A test of 30 vocabulary words kept Martin Haberman out of the Korean War.

Standing in the draft board line, Haberman noticed that most of those who failed the test, and were drafted into the Army and sent to Korea, were minorities and poor men. By passing the test, Haberman could stay in college. It was an eye-opener for Haberman, who decided to make education his life's work.

Haberman, 79, died of bladder cancer Jan. 1 in Milwaukee.

"That was a big turning point for him, where he realized it would have been an advantage for them to get a good enough education to pass a 30-word vocabulary test to avoid getting drafted," said his daughter, Jill Eannelli.

Haberman was a longtime University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee education professor, researcher, writer of numerous books on teaching and founder of the Haberman Educational Foundation, which helps train school districts, universities and community colleges to use selection interviews when choosing prospective educators.

He dedicated his life to finding ways to improve teaching by coming up with a way to select people who would become great educators. Haberman believed that choosing the right people to become teachers and principals was more important than training, contending that those with a high level of judgment and maturity could be taught to be good educators, particularly in urban classrooms, said Delia Stafford, president and CEO of the Haberman Educational Foundation.

"Without question he has had a major impact on teacher education nationally and internationally," Stafford said.

Haberman's methods and tests have been used in more than 300 school districts across the United States since the foundation started in 1994. Among his books are "Star Teachers of Children in Poverty" and "Star Principals: Serving Children in Poverty."

"One of the last things he said to me was, 'If we don't step up as educators in this country where 15 million children are living in poverty, America will be the next Third World country. You cannot live without an educated society,' " Stafford said.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he earned a bachelor's degree in education at Brooklyn College and master's degrees from New York University and Columbia University before earning a doctorate in teacher education at Columbia. He worked several jobs to pay for college - at a liquor store, as a carpenter and as a musician in a swing band playing saxophone, piano, guitar and clarinet.

He met his future wife, Florrie, when they were both 17 while they stood in line at the Brooklyn College bookstore, waiting to buy dissection kits for biology class. They married in 1952; Florrie died in 2007.

Haberman was teaching at Rutgers University when he was offered a teaching position at UWM in 1962. He created the Metropolitan Milwaukee Teacher Education Program and was a co-founder of Urban Doctoral Program at UWM's School of Education.

He was awarded the 1996 Teacher Educator of the Year Award from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Haberman was editor of the Journal of Teacher Education for six years and served 11 years as a dean at UWM.

Among the many people he influenced was his daughter, who became a special-education teacher at Bradley Tech High School.

"He believed that forming relationships with students was important. Even though you only have them a short time of the day, you should give 100% of effort because it might be the most positive time the child has all day," Eannelli said.

He is survived by his daughter and one grandson.

Visitation is scheduled from 11 a.m. until the funeral service at 1 p.m. Sunday at Goodman-Bensman Whitefish Bay Funeral Home, 4750 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Whitefish Bay.

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