John Carl Waterman, like most teachers, wore many hats at school. He taught classes, sponsored a club, led a department and coached basketball and tennis.
More importantly, he influenced lives.
“He was well-loved by his students. He was inspiring in the classroom,” said his wife, Marjorie Waterman.
His former students work worldwide in mathematics and related fields because of his influence as a teacher, she said.
John Waterman, 64, died Thursday at the Omaha home he shared with his wife. He had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called ALS and Lou Gehrig's disease.
Waterman spent his career teaching math in Omaha, largely for the Omaha Public Schools.
He began his OPS career in 1970. He taught at Morton and King Junior High Schools until 1980, when he moved to Central High. Besides teaching math, he headed Central's math department from 1982 to 2000. He finished his OPS career at Omaha North High School, where he taught from 2000 until retirement in 2004.
After retirement, he taught at Omaha Brownell-Talbot School until 2008 and at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He also tutored students.
Retired Central Principal Keith Bigsby was a teacher in a different department while Waterman was math department chairman. “John ran a heck of a math department. He was a great math teacher. He was very, very committed to kids, to their success,” Bigsby said.
“He was one of the four horsemen, the four pillars, of Central's academic success,” Bigsby said. The others were the chairmen of science, social studies and English, he said.
Central's Math Club earned national renown during Waterman's tenure, Bigsby said. Waterman was very competitive and had the ability to get kids motivated and involved, he said.
“John was one of the first adopters of technology for his department. He was very creative, a master educator and a master advocate for the math department and Omaha Public Schools,” Bigsby said.
Waterman also worked with athletes.
He was Central's tennis coach from 1980-98. Central won the state championship in 1985 when four-time state champion Joe Salerno was a sophomore.
Waterman also coached basketball at Morton and King and the junior varsity basketball team at Central.
In 1988, Waterman was in the first group of Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award winners.
At the time, he told The World-Herald: “I attempt to challenge the kids to work hard but have fun. I want them to have great enjoyment and the fulfillment of doing challenging math.”
Waterman received the National Science Foundation's Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching of Science and Mathematics in 1986 and a 1985-86 Cooper Foundation Award for Excellence in Teaching.
“Everything that he engaged himself in, he was passionate about. He didn't do anything partway,” his wife said. That passion extended to his koi pond, chess and theoretical mathematics, she said.
John Waterman was born and raised in McCook, Neb. He played baseball for the Junior American Legion.
He graduated from then-Kearney State College (now the University of Nebraska at Kearney) in 1970 and received his master's degree in 1977 from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Besides his wife, other survivors include son Ian Waterman of Omaha and daughter Kaitlin Holzapfel of Boston.
Per John Waterman's wishes, he will be cremated and there will be no funeral.