Where were you born? I was born in La Grande, Oregon. My great, great grandfather was the first white settler in the Grand Ronde Valley. He built the first house ever in La Grande, Oregon.
What was his name? His name was John Brown. If John Brown had not been a politician, I would own that whole valley, but he wanted to be a politician, so he sold it all off.
Did you go to school in LaGrande? My father was a vice president in charge of production at Louisiana Pacific Lumber Company, and my mom was a grade school principal. We moved when I was in the second grade to Sandpoint, Idaho, and that is where I went for grade school, middle school, and high school.
What high school did you attend? Sandpoint High School, home of the Bulldogs! Class of 1976.
Did you like high school? I loved high school. In northern Idaho, in the middle of winter, there was not a lot to do, so everyone went to the basketball games. Everyone knew all the athletes. If we won a football game, the local fast food joint called DUB’s gave us free sundaes after the game. I mean it was the quintessential little town.
Were you involved in many activities in high school? Yep. I played three sports: football, basketball, and track. We didn’t have baseball, because it snowed until late in the year. I was involved in student leadership and 4H when I was growing up. I skied a lot and was on our area ski racing team.
Can you tell us about snow skiing? Well, I started skiing when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, and we would ski 100 times a year. The ski area was about 40 minutes from my house. If we wanted to ski, and our parents did not, we would stand at the bottom of the hill and hitch hike up.
Were you skiing at Schweitzer? Yeah. Back then, it was $100 for a family ticket, and that’s what everybody did all winter long. My father is still a shareholder in Schweitzer. Everybody in the community bought a share of stock to give them their initial money to build the ski area.
You grew up in some small towns. Yes, Standpoint’s population is about 4,000. The high school is similar to Mark Morris, about 1,000 kids, 1,200 when I was in high school. Everyone in the county went to the same school.
Growing up, what career did you plan to pursue? My goal when I graduated from high school was to be a millionaire. I was lucky enough to get a college football scholarship to small school in Montana called Carroll, which always had a good football team.
What position did you play? I played free safety. I was a middle linebacker in high school and then I moved to free safety in college. I studied accounting, and got a degree in accounting because I liked the teacher. He would challenge me. He didn’t like football players and called on me every day for six weeks.
What did you do after college? I went to work for an oil company in Casper, Wyoming, as an accountant. I passed the CPA test, but didn’t want to do tax work. I worked for the oil company for two years, and then the Schweitzer Ski area needed a comptroller so I went to work for them as the business manager. I did that for two years and decided that I was just making money for other people, there had to be more.
What did you decide to do? My mother was an educator. I spent time at her school, with her kids. I had an opportunity to go to the University of Idaho and get my teaching degree. I was a graduate assistant football coach for Dennis Erickson. He was the head football coach at Idaho at that time. They didn’t pay me, but they gave me free tuition. I got my education degree in 1984 and left accounting.
How did you develop the relationship with Coach Erickson? His staff would come up to Schweitzer and ski. He was the head coach of the nearest college, so I was impressed with him. I would have dinner with him whenever they were there.
How did you go from being a friend to a graduate assistant football coach? I was pretty “techie” for back then and Coach Erickson figured that out. I told him, “I’m looking for something else to do,” and he said, “Why don’t you come to Idaho and you can be the film guy?” Not actually filming, but cutting and pasting tape. I considered it, left the ski area, went to work for him and got my degree in education.
Do you ever wish you would’ve pursued coaching football? Probably not. I have some dear friends who are college coaches and they have moved so many times. I have lived in three cities my entire life, so I never had a desire for that life. Too much pressure.
What did you do after earning a teaching degree from the University of Idaho? I got a job at Sandpoint High School. They hired me right away, right out of student teaching. Then I applied to Mark Morris High School. Gary Kipp long-time principal, called and offered me the job. I talked it over with my father and he said, “You wanna be a good ol’ boy at Sandpoint, or do you want to go see what else is out there?”
What job did Mr. Kipp offer? The job I currently have. I’ve had this same job since 1985.
What makes for a great teacher? You have to like kids, which I do. High school kids are fun. Being a good communicator is huge in every job, maybe more so in teaching. I think there’s a bit of wanting to make the world a better place too.
What is the best part about being a teacher? The best part is the energy you get from kids. There’s always a constant hum. Somebody is asking me a question, somebody is waiting for help, somebody wants his or her grade improved, usually there’s a parent to talk with. I think we really do good things for kids.
Tell me about your first involvement with DECA. I was sitting with Mr. Kipp. He asked me, “Greg, if you take this job, you have to do DECA.” I said, “Ah, no problem. No problem at all.” I didn’t have a clue what DECA was. All the way home I’m thinking, “What in the world is DECA?” My first year here I had a good mentor at R.A. Long, by the name of Bill Crossman, who was an excellent teacher – he helped me.
For those who don’t know – what is DECA? It is a club, the largest in the country, and the largest at Mark Morris. It’s a co-curricular club of marketing for kids who are interested in business management, and finance. It was designed during the Eisenhower administration to teach logistics, because Eisenhower built the interstate highway system and thought, “Well I can’t just build it, I have to teach people how to use it.” So they started what was called a “distributive education club,” and that’s morphed over the decades into a business class.
What sort of things are DECA students doing? My kids are in the computer lab doing virtual business, which is a simulation. They get to build from six different businesses and run them for two weeks on the computer. They learn a lot from it.
It seems you really enjoy DECA. Absolutely. I like what I do. I’ve had opportunities to go back into business and I turned them down. I get to be a business guy in a classroom with kids. We get to make our fair share of mistakes and failures, but we learn from those too.
What do you like to do on your own time? Well I’m blessed to have two successful children, and my wife works for a title company. Family is huge, that’s why I haven’t moved, I don’t want to do that.
Do you kids live in the local area? One does and one lives elsewhere. I’m not sure if I’ll retire here. I don’t know, I don’t like the weather. Love the community, don’t like the weather.
Do you have hobbies? Coaching football was my hobby for 47 years. I coached here in the middle schools. Some guys went fishing, I coached kids.
Did you miss watching football game film? Watching film is probably my least favorite part of coaching. I like running drills and competing, learning if we can win, making kids successful.
Do you think about retiring? Yes. I often tell my students that although I’m not rich, I’m wealthy. I will retire sometime within the next three years. What’s nice is that I have the ability to do it on my terms.
What advice would you give a new teacher? Don’t take anything too seriously. The issue in front of you may seem huge and insurmountable, but come Monday it may be easily taken care of. I would also say take the long game. You might not get exactly where you want to get with a student today, or this week, but take the long game.
What would you tell people who have not been in a school in years? In my life, my most important assets are my children. I would hope that’s a comment most people would make. That said, a quality school, buildings, facilities, teachers, technology, are unbelievably important, because our students are from Longview, but we need them to see the world, and this is where it happens first. I’ve always thought we should build Taj Mahal schools. Beautiful facilities that are open a lot and available to be used.
Do parents get more involved with kids school now? Parents are much more of an advocate for the kids. I think in my high school, there were not as many smart kids, and not as many struggling kids. There was more of a middle group, of which I was part. Now, there might be more smart kids, but there are certainly more kids that are struggling, for a whole host of reasons.
How have things like smartphones changed teaching? I’m sure you remember memorizing the states, there was a bird and there was a flower, and the capital? You don’t need to do that anymore. I worry about their communication skills, and where they go for their social needs. We went to a high school basketball game, we got to school as soon as the door opened so we could all hang for an hour before school. And we usually played a sport, if not because we were good at it, simply because that’s where our friends were. Now they can get their social needs met in their bedroom with their cellphones, which is kind of scary, for me.
What do you want people reading this to know? That education is our most important asset. It doesn’t have to be college, but education is huge. Teamwork and all those (I hate the term) “soft skills” that we use to define things like work ethic, and integrity, and teamwork.
What would you call “soft skills”? Essential skills – because if you ask most employers, they want people who are good people, and team-oriented. I always tell kids there are technical skills and people skills, and real successful people have both.
It is clear you love what you do, is that right? Oh absolutely! It is my career and I’m at the point where I’m at the end of it and it’s been wonderful.
Any other thoughts? Yes. Help us develop lifelong learners. I’ve got a fortune cookie here and it says, “You’re never too old to learn something new.” I’m constantly learning, and I think the only way kids can be successful is if they are constantly learning. So be a lifetime learner, learn, learn, learn.