Many of you knew Herb Greenberg, a colleague, a contributor to our profession, and “The Old Poster Peddler.”
By Tim Tesconi
Herbert Greenberg became a full-fledged Francophile while studying at the University of Geneva during his junior year in college. On weekends he would leave Switzerland and head across the border to soak up anything and everything French. “He was a Frenchman through and through, or at least he wanted to be a Frenchman through and through. He loved everything about France including the language,” said wife Anne Greenberg of Santa Rosa.
Greenberg, a longtime French teacher at Santa Rosa High School and active community volunteer, died Wednesday at his Santa Rosa home. He was 80. The cause of death was cancer.
Greenberg taught French at Santa Rosa High for 25 years, retiring in 1984. He continued in the classroom as a substitute teacher until last September, always upholding his reputation as a stern taskmaster.
“Herb was known as Monsieur Greenberg at Santa Rosa High School. He was intense, demanding and effective, reflecting what’s good in education,” said retired teacher and friend Lee Torliatt, who taught with Greenberg at Santa Rosa High. For many years Greenberg and Torliatt commuted together, engaging in deep philosophical discussions and flights of fancy.
“He had a wonderful sense of irony, mixed with a wonderful sense of idealism. It made for interesting conversations,” said Torliatt.
Greenberg earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University. Before becoming an educator, he served three years with the Department of State in Iceland. During World War II, he served with the Marines in the Pacific.
During his more than two decades at Santa Rosa High, Greenberg immersed his students in French, not speaking a word of English in the classroom. It befuddled students not willing to follow the rigors of learning a difficult foreign language.
“He was a very serious teacher and a hard grader. He was not popular with some students but reached the serious students who really wanted to learn French. Many of his students went on to become French teachers themselves,” said his wife.
After he retired from active teaching, Greenberg maintained a busy schedule as a volunteer, substitute teacher and avid long-distance cyclist. He also started a business called the Old Poster Peddler, a mail-order company that provided posters and other visual-aid materials to foreign language teachers across the United States.
For many years, Greenberg volunteered as a third-grade tutor at Burbank Elementary School, helping students who struggled with math. In recent years, Greenberg used money he earned as a substitute teacher to pay for buses so that the school’s low-income students could take field trips for cultural and educational enrichment.
Greenberg also donated his time and organizational skills to Sonoma County’s Safe Kids Program, which sponsored bicycle rodeos at schools throughout the county. The programs were aimed at safe bicycling and getting kids to wear helmets.
He was a member of the Santa Rosa Cycling Club and the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation.
In addition to his wife Anne, Greenberg is survived by his sons, Mark Greenberg of Santa Rosa, Steven Greenberg of Berkeley and Allen Greenberg of Falls Church, Va.; his sister, Joan Strauss of Phoenix, Ariz.; and by one grandson.
Private family services will be held. The family suggests memorial contributions to the Santa Rosa High School Foundation, P.O. Box 11002, Santa Rosa, 95406.