New teacher David Dunn gets his desk organized in the same classroom where he was a student 12 years ago. On his desk is a picture of him with his father, a Derby teacher who inspired him to become a teacher, as well.
The first day of school brings mounting excitement and anticipation, mingled with memories of prior years. That is particularly true for first-year teacher David Dunn.
“I sincerely believe we are acquiring a teacher who’s going to make so much difference in the lives of kids, just like his dad did,” said Mary Sites, Tanglewood principal.
David’s father, Glenn, died in May 2010, at 48. He had taught science for 19 years at Derby Middle School, coached football and basketball. He changed children’s lives.
“I saw the impact Dad had, and that turned me on to teaching,” said David. “I saw the way he was able to be a good role model for students, influence them in a positive manner. I want to do that.”
Sites was David’s principal when he was a Tanglewood student and is his boss now. She believes he will make a difference.
“Some people might say David had an in with his love for Tanglewood, but it was also a reason for us to be more cautious,” said Sites. “We wanted to make sure we hired the very best person for the job. We didn’t want to let personal biases get in the way.”
Before Sites contacted David for a full-team interview with multiple teachers, a parent rep, support staff and herself, she called his college dean.
“The dean is a former public school principal and said in all his years in education, David was one of the top student teachers he’d ever seen,” she said. “He reaffirmed what I already knew. I think it’s going to be great. David went through the whole Derby school system and is bringing it back home.”
David and his three siblings, Sarah, Micah and Daniel, were students at Tanglewood, and their mother is a paraprofessional in the special education classroom there.
Sites said when David spoke of his father’s impact during the interview it was a very emotional moment for the entire interview team.
“The Dunn family are just wonderful people,” she said.
Jeannie Haag and Eric Seyb, David’s former fourth grade teachers, are his new team teaching partners.
“I didn’t ever imagine I’d be back in this same spot, in this very classroom,” said David. “It was a God thing. I remember them as very good teachers. I’m hoping to learn from them.”
In addition to student teaching, David has helped lead summer youth camps and church basketball camps.
“I think we need a positive male influence in the classroom and in today’s society, particularly in the early years of children’s lives,” he said. “At this point in their lives, they’re very impressionable. I hope to be a good influence.”
David said his strength is that he is “pretty flexible.”
“I’m laid back, but firm,” he said. “I don’t let the little things worry me – a lot bigger things have happened in my life.”
The passage of time has not eased David’s sense of loss.
“Dad died two years ago, but I wouldn’t say it’s any easier now,” he said. “It’s always difficult. Some days are better than others. There are still things I would love to share with him, have him say, ‘Good job,’ or have him give me a pointer.
“This is a way I can carry on his name, keep his legacy going, if you will,” David said.
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