For over 25 years, Scott Weissling ’04 M ’17 worked his way through a University of Findlay education while scooping ice cream at one of Findlay’s most historic and well-known establishments, Dietsch Brothers. Now, all of Weissling’s hard work and people skills, both coming as a result of that past occupation and through his studies within both UF’s College of Health Professions and its College of Education, have paid off with another interesting career: an intervention specialist at the Juvenile Detention Center in nearby Lima, Ohio. While it may sound like a daunting occupation, Weissling, a mild-mannered and big-hearted man who grew up in Findlay, said that he wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
Weissling began at UF in the mid-90s, starting his education the same way in which he finished, working full time at Dietsch’s and taking classes part time at UF. It took patience and dedication, two qualities that he would rely on just as often later in life. When he eventually got his undergraduate degree in social work in 2004, he took a few years off, feeling both relieved and excited to have graduated. He also felt something else, however: not completely finished. “I realized that something was missing,” he said. He wasn’t sure what, he added, but whatever it was, he felt a pull to get back in school.
While entertaining the thought of pursuing a master’s degree, Weissling talked to his wife, Shannon (Kilpatrick) Weissling ’99, a school psychologist, about the life of an educator. “Her boss was the director of special education services in Lima,” Weissling said, “and he had said he thought I’d make a good intervention specialist” (a teacher who assists children with special education and social adjustment needs in the classroom). Not thinking too much of it at first, Weissling started talking about it loosely to a family friend, the late UF professor of education and former dean of the College of Education, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, John “Skip” Cindric Ed.D. Much like the vast majority of faculty at UF, Cindric turned out to be a terrific mentor. With his and some other teachers’ help, Weissling enrolled in the Masters of Education program, and also became Cindric’s graduate assistant. “He definitely gave me the guidance I needed,” Weissling added. “No nonsense, tells it like it is. If you have a problem, don’t mess around; just take care of it. That sort of thing. It worked.” He continued his education and kept working in the ice cream business; he did his student teaching at an elementary school in Findlay, and, after several years of dedication, became a graduate school alumnus of UF.
After accepting a job and working for five years at St. Peter and Paul school in Ottawa, Ohio, his wife told him about a person she worked with who was gaining some extra experience and pay as a part-time teacher at a prison. Seeing as he had the background in social work, the knowledge of an intervention specialist, and the compassion necessary to help those who need it most, Weissling found the idea intriguing, and began teaching a few basic college classes at the prison alongside his full-time teaching job. It was rewarding, for certain, but, once he was immersed amongst the prison population and started to hear the stories the prisoners had to tell about their lives prior to incarceration, Weissling found himself wondering how he could help break the cycle prisoners found themselves in earlier. “I thought, ‘What about working with the younger population somehow? Could I teach kids at the juvenile detention center (JDC)? How can I make that happen?’” Contact with JDC in Lima was made, and within that following year, Weissling’s mission was realized. He signed a contract, and has been teaching the youth at the JDC for going on four years now.
Weissling’s patience and dedication had to resurface in a big way at the JDC; he said he sees kids leave and then come right back; he sees the behavioral issues that landed them there in the first place and that continues to bring them back; and, he said, he sees their desperate need for structure and discipline. Even when they lose their own patience, sometimes bringing their frustration to the surface in fits of anger, Weissling exhibits kindness and understanding with the inmates. “You just have to let go and forget about it,” he said. “Every day is a new day. These kids need life skills and direction, even though they might not show it or say it. They lean on me for that.”
The payoff, Weissling said, comes when he sees his former students out in the “real world” and on the other side of trouble. It happens often enough to regularly build hope and allow plenty of room for him to feel that he is accomplishing what he set out to accomplish: making a difference earlier, and perhaps at just the right time, in the lives of those who so desperately need it. “They might be out in the community working,” Weissling said, “and they’ll say ‘Hey, I remember you! How are you, Mr. Weissling?’ and they’ll start telling me about all of the positive things happening in their life, saying great things about the teaching program here, and all that. You can tell that they’re a completely different person. It’s definitely rewarding.”
While he has come quite a long way since his days of scooping ice cream and patiently moving through UF as a part-time student, Weissling, who has two children, Kaelin and Cole, said that that job and, even more so, his time at UF gave him the invaluable skills of recognizing the needs of people and working toward finding a solution to problems. These are qualities that he can say he developed in uniquely Findlay ways, and for that, he has a specific advantage within his career. “When I was going through the graduate program at UF, I would have never, ever guessed that I’d be doing what I do now,” he said. “But the preparation was there, and I have UF to thank for that for sure.”