jimvanpelt (jimvanpelt) wrote,


I started my career in District 51 in 1981. Arnold Hayes was the principal, and he interviewed me during the summer. Two elements from that forty-five minute meeting stuck in my mind: first, I was interviewing for an English position and to be the boys and girls swim coach. What struck me about that interview was that Arnold only asked me questions about coaching, mostly coaching girls. During the forty-five minutes, he didn't ask a single question about teaching English. After that, I coached the boys team for four years and the girls for six.

The second memory that stuck is that for some reason I got it in my head that he was Irish. All the way through the interview, I called him "Mr. O'Hayes." Bonnie Noble, the secretary, corrected me as I left the office.

Still, he gave me the job. When he called to tell me, he asked which school publication I wanted to teach: newspaper or yearbook. I said, "Mr. Hayes, I have no journalism classes, and I've never been a newspaper or yearbook staff member."

He said, "What's your point?"

I owned a camera, so he said, "Great. You're yearbook." I did the yearbook for five years. Later I took over the newspaper for eleven years.

When I stepped into the English office my first day of school, Steve Congdon looked up from his desk and said, "Where are the donuts?"


"First year teachers are supposed to bring donuts on Mondays. You're off to a bad start, Van Pelt."

It took me a week to figure out he was pulling my leg.

Thirty-four years of my life have been spent in the service of Fruita Monument High, my permanent teaching home. During that time I married twice and divorced once. I became the father of three boys who all graduated from FMHS. I started and nurtured a writing life outside of the school. I lived in five different houses and taught under seven principals. My classrooms are now sprinkled with children of students I once taught. I haven't seen a grandchild yet.

In retirement I will​ become the full-time writer I dreamed about being at ten when I walked through the science fiction section of our public library and saw that my book (when I wrote it) would be shelved between Jack Vance and A.E. Van Vogt. Pretty good company.

My plan is to post over the next four days what I think I've learned about the most important parts of my teaching life: teachers, students, parents, and authority.

I hope all my teaching friends have a great last week. Once again we've pulled off the impossible trick of handling multiple classes a day, juggling the progress of way too many students, and not only survived but thrived.

Hang in. You're four days from wrapping up 2014-15.

Tags: teaching, teaching life
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