Though substitute teacher Barry Finkelstein calls himself “an open book,” his colorful past, which has had a great influence on him, has only recently been revealed.
According to Finkelstein, his personality and style of teaching are the products of his life in the military and his work for the federal government.
Finkelstein spent 36 years in the government: five in active duty and in the Navy, 27 with the Internal Revenue Service and four with the Department of Justice. His first tour with the U.S. Navy was as a line officer aboard a cruiser in Vietnam.
After leaving the U.S. Navy, he went to work for the IRS, which involved trying civil tax cases. Later, he was transferred to the Department of Justice in the Organized Crime Section.
“I prosecuted organized crime figures on a variety of federal offenses including loan sharking, insurance fraud and mail fraud, narcotics and tax evasion,” Finkelstein said.
Finkelstein has used everything from informants to wiretaps and undercover investigations to research many of his cases.
His most noteworthy cases include the “investigation of the reputed crime boss of Niagara Falls for running a large scale gambling operation,” he said.
For these, he has even received a special commendation from the Attorney General, which was presented to him by former Associate Attorney General Rudy Giuliani.
Finkelstein lectured at many training programs and was an adjunct associate professor at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York.
“So teaching has been in my blood for a long time,” Finkelstein said. “Teaching has enough similarities to the days when I was in court, that it fills a void in my desire to go to the podium.”
Additionally, his experience has taught him that understanding the students tends to be more effective when teaching.
“I remind myself of what I was like at 15,16 or 17, and recognize that some slippage is normal,” he said.