Spotlight – Q & A

Where did you grow up? I was born in New York City and moved to Salt Lake City, UT as a baby. We lived in Salt Lake City until sixth grade then moved to Burien, WA, which is south of Seattle. I graduated from Glacier High School, which no longer exists.

The high school was located at the north end of the runways at SeaTac Airport, during class the jets would zoom right over the school and everyone had to stop what they were doing, wait for the jets to pass then resume school. The noise was just part of the school culture and life.

My wife graduated from R.A. Long.

Where did you go to college? I went to Western Washington University and earned a technology degree. I worked in private business for a while, then went back to Western and got my teaching degree. My first job was as a substitute teacher in Federal Way in 1987.

My wife and I moved to a very small village just north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska. The village had about 260 to 300 people in it. The job market back then was poor, so you had to move where the jobs were.

What was an Alaskan winter like? The winter of 1989 was one of the coldest on record in Alaska and the thermometer pegged at minus 50 degrees below zero.

Why did you leave Alaska?  My wife was pregnant with our first child in 1989 and being 60 miles from the nearest road was not a great idea, so we moved back to Washington.

We moved to the Willapa Valley, I got a job in a small town called Menlo. Both of our kids were born while we lived there.

When did your family move to Longview? In the early 90’s we moved to Longview when I got a job at Natural High School. Natural High School started in the late 1970’s as an alternative high school. I worked at Natural High School for about 2 years.

I moved from Natural High School to Monticello Middle School, where I taught science and math. I worked at Monticello for 11 years. My last 16 years have been at Mt. Solo.

What is the best thing about being a teacher? One of the best parts is that middle school kids are a lot of fun. I really enjoy teaching kids this age they have a lot of energy and are typically very positive.

What are some of the keys to being a good teacher? One of the things is to have a set of procedures kids know that are very clear. The kids will respond to it. Also, there has to be flexibility, I have been teaching middle school almost my whole career, middle school kids make tons of mistake. For the most part, they want to correct the mistakes – so you cannot get too rigid. Allow the kids room to make some errors.

What advice would you have for new teachers? My advice to a new teacher would be, find out what good teachers do – and do that. The teachers I have seen fail have a very fixed mindset, the teachers who flourish have a growth mindset. Great teachers look at other points of view and the big picture. You cannot put a round peg in a square hole – steal every great idea you can.

Do you have any hobbies? I love to snow ski, ride my Surly or Trek bicycle, my wife and I also kayak together. My wife and I just bought an RV trailer, so we will see if we can be RV’ers.

What would you tell the community about what life is like in school? I would tell them that teachers are working hard, and I think the community knows this. I would also tell them kids are improving. If you look at the progression of kids who go through Mt. Solo, they have much better skills after three years of middle school.

How are students different from perceptions created by the media? The kids of today are much the same as in the past – kids are essentially kids. The thing that has changed is the influences on kids, the Internet, technology, structure of the household.  We deal with kids coming in from a different point of view now than we did twenty years ago.

What is your outlook on the future? It’s positive. Whenever you have a bad day, you realize it’s not a lot of kids who are pushing your buttons. You look at your roster and know that most of the kids are great.

What else? I had a child very early in life, so now I have seven grandkids; the oldest grandchild is 21 years old.

What is it like to be a grandfather? I have older grand kids and younger ones, so the dynamic is different based on their age. My relationships with my older grandchildren is more fatherly due to their age. It is great to go over to my daughter’s house and have fun with the kids then go home.

Any final thoughts? We have a great staff at Mt. Solo and feel supported.