One In A Million Feature Questions
Name: Doug Evans
School: Mountain Ridge High School
Grade: 9-12, mostly 11 and 12
How long have you been a teacher?
I have been teaching for 26 years, 25 at Mountain Ridge High School.
What made you get into the teaching profession?
When I graduated high school I never really thought that I would become a teacher, instead I wanted to become a veterinarian. After a year in college I realized that science wasn’t my calling and that math and working and coaching young students was my passion. I enjoyed working with numbers and the thought processes that occur while doing math problems and knew that I wanted to be the one to help bring those math problems to life for young people. When I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, I went to talk to an advisor. He asked if I had ever thought about teaching. I hadn’t put much thought into it, but this made me think of Mr. and how much he put into his job and I felt if I could ever be half the teacher he was, I would be doing amazing work. I remembered his dedication and hard work and the time he spent helping his students and I felt I could do the same. As a high school student, I really never thought that his motivation and encouragement would mean so much to me. Even though he taught history, I knew I could be as helpful and caring teaching mathematics as he was for me.
Who was your most inspirational teacher and why?
When I was in high school I had a history teacher named Mr. Kozimor. He always allowed us in his room before school and at lunch to hang out. We would talk about sports and play mini-basketball; he was always there to listen to whatever we wanted to talk about. He was from Chicago, so he loved to give us grief about our favorite sports teams and how the Bears or Bulls were the best. Mr. Kozimor was the teacher who was there for his students. He was the teacher who took us on a trip up North to show us all the many historic places in our state, and he took the time to organize and take us on our senior trip to Disneyland’s Grad Nite. It showed me how much he enjoyed what he was doing and allowed us all to feel comfortable in what he was teaching. We always knew that Mr. Kozimor cared about us, even if the subject matter was difficult at times. What I didn’t know, or at least couldn’t articulate at the time, was he was the one who would be my strongest influence.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges teachers in Arizona face right now?
I think one of the biggest challenges that teachers face is the last two years dealing with COVID. As a high school teacher, I have seen a little bit of a lapse as far as content, and feel like in the next few years it will definitely get bigger, but the biggest part to this is the complacency students have in doing work and in responsibility. When students were online or having class asynchronously, they weren’t necessarily required to do work. Learning and teaching was hard for everyone, coming back to “normal” has been tough for some, work wise and emotionally.
How do these issues affect your day to day?
I teach dual enrollment math classes and also do Student Government, so I am trying to instill the college level academics and requirements to students who are in high school and are trying to refocus on the pre-COVID days and regain that strong work ethic. Yes I am teaching them the academics that needs to be taught, but also trying to get them to realize the importance these things will have in their everyday lives moving forward, and somedays are harder than others.
What does the $250 tax deduction for school supplies for teachers mean to you?
It’s definitely very helpful, as teachers we spend quite a bit of money each year on our classrooms for a variety of supplies so every bit that we can get back or donated is a tremendous help to us and our students.
How are the expectations of becoming a teacher different than the reality?
I feel like many think we just go into the classroom, call out roll and give some math problems for the kids to do and don’t realize that there is much more to do the job than that. There are so many other factors that we face as teachers that are emotionally and physically draining. This is partly why I became a teacher, to help students grow as people. I would not change this for anything, is it hard some days, yes, but that’s part of the reward.
Why do you think teachers burn out so quickly?
Teaching is a difficult job and as I said above, there are so many more aspects of the job than just “teaching” the material. Showing students you care and are there for them, especially with the times the way they are now, is very important. It’s not a 7:30 am – 2:12 pm job, you need to be there early in the morning for tutoring, stay late for extra help and then all the events that are going on that they love to see you at, on top of the planning, grading, emails and phone calls that need to be made. It’s tough some days.
What “fills your cup” when you’re running on empty?
I think the things that “fills my cup” each day are the students, which is probably obvious, why else would you do the job? I love when my students come in to have a conversation and get help with homework or review for a test. Many students who aren’t even in my class come and hang out in the morning to watch the news, talk about the game last night or just say hi! I feel this is an important aspect of teaching that many students don’t see from all of their teachers and maybe even their parents. Working with my student government students each day is so awesome, knowing we are planning events or doing things to help others, like our Make-A-Wish Week, Prom and our Spring Assembly we have been doing lately.
What are some of the most thoughtful and effective ways parents and the community can show gratitude?
The biggest way to show support and gratitude is to show support for teachers and really just let them know how much you appreciate all they are doing. Even just a simple “thank you” will go a long way in letting them know you appreciate them.
What is your wish for Arizona’s children?
My wish for Arizona’s children is that they continue to grow as people, work hard and keep learning and that they always have fun while doing it. Know that there is always someone there that cares for them and is always willing to help them when needed.
What additional support or supplies do you need in your classroom and who do people contact if they want to help out?
Since I am the Student Government Advisor, we are always looking to support our community, whether it be our annual food drive, where we consistently collect over 50,000 pounds of food for St. Mary’s food drive or our Make-A-Wish Week, which is currently going on. We can always take donations for these events any other items that helps us build a better school and community. If anyone would like to help, you can reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.