By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News
Dave Watts once told his electronics students to keep their report cards so they could one day prove Mr. Watts was their electricity teacher. It is this same sense of humor and lighthearted fun that has made an impact over his last 34 years as a teacher at Mt. Pleasant Community Middle School. This school year marks Watts? last one as he turns out the lights in his classroom and prepares for retirement.
Watts never wanted to be a teacher. His middle school art teacher taught him about drafting and he thought that was where his career path would take him. ?I thought I wanted to draw pictures all day,? he said.
In the early 80s he took a job with Pella Windows, drawing the mechanics for the engineers. Shortly thereafter, he found he did not enjoy sitting behind a desk and began to think about other career choices.
Through his church youth groups, he worked with children and found that was where his passion laid. ?I thought, well, let?s see if I can make it in a classroom,? he said.
Watts received his bachelors from William Penn University and his masters in instructional technology from Western Illinois University. His first job out of school was with Mt. Pleasant Middle School and he stayed ever since. He was hired on to teach electronics which later evolved into technology as a whole. ?That?s right down my alley,? he said.
Watts then taught drafting, his first career choice. The challenge of adapting to new technology was not as difficult for him as it was for his students. ?I can remember every time we changed from T-squares to drafting machines, to computers, I would get the same comment: why do we have to learn this new technology, I can learn faster with the old stuff,? he said. Watts was determined to prove to students that evolving technology was important and impactful. He challenged them to a race where he would use the new technology and they would use the former, and see who finished first. ?They never took me up on it but they kind of became convinced,? he said.
Finding creative ways to teach and help students discover new ideas was always Watts? main goal. As technology evolved and drafting classes shifted from tables to computers, Watts said his favorite part was helping his students find creative ways to troubleshoot and problem solve. ?It wasn?t the projects that were so much fun, it was sitting down with the student, talking with them, helping. That was my favorite part,? he said.
Building relationships and working with students and teachers is what Watts will miss the most during retirement. He spent the last four years as an instructional coach. As a coach, Watts would sit with teachers and be a sounding board for their ideas and assist them with curriculum and assessments. ?My favorite part was if a teacher needed a thinking partner or brainstorming partner, we just sat down and said, ?Okay, let?s start talking?? he said. ?I don?t care if I?m working with adults or kids, it?s just fun.?
Although Watts has spent the last 34 years planning and working with students, he has made no plans for his retirement. ?My father-in-law gave me good advice,? he said. ?He told me, ?wait for the opportunities to find you.? And I think that?s what I?m going to do.?