random thoughts from the past about a high school teacher

I just randomly ran into this article a friend sent me about Mr. Dorson, my high school social studies teacher. This article was rather something that I had actually written for the Tucson Citizen more than 6 years ago, when I was 17 years old, and completing my junior year at Catalina Foothills High School. It was my reaction to the resignation for Mr. Dorson which had caused quite a stir in our high school. The event surrounded the issues of high achievers, stressed out parents, pressure to get into a top college, and the personal struggle that teachers often face between being just to giving into parents’ plea for ‘a little leverage’ for the purposes of reputation. Today, I am a year out of college already and running into this article and reading it was somewhat surreal. I hope that there are many more teachers out there like Mr. Dorson who are continuing to inspire and light a fire to students. Passion is certainly something that we still need more of as a society.

Catalina Foothills board forces fine teacher to quit

Thursday, May 12th, 2005

Guest Writer

We all know how important education is to our lives and for the continuity of our society. As Americans, we pride ourselves in having some of the world’s best doctors, scientists, lawyers, activists, entertainers and much more.

But the United States would not be where it is today had it not been for teachers.

It is truly ironic that the most important people of our lives, who make us who we are, are almost always forgotten and left in the shadows.

I recently joined fellow students and teachers to appreciate the most important teacher we have had in the history of Catalina Foothills High School.

Mitch Dorson is my Advanced Placement U.S. History teacher, but he is more than a teacher. He is a model citizen, a caring individual, a devoted father and a loving husband. And he leaves my school on a sad note.

He has resigned because he stood up for what he believed in and received no support from the school board. He knows how much many of us want him to stay. He knows he will leave a big hole in this school, as his impact is enormous.

Every school has that one who stands out, that teacher everyone knows about and wants to have, the teacher who makes his class exciting and changes lives forever.

Mr. Dorson was that teacher. Everyday, he starts his class with a smile and energy that is unmatched. I have his class first thing in the morning, and it is the best class to be in, especially if you are one those people still dreaming from last night, like me.

Mr. Dorson teaches us aspects of history with so much enthusiasm, you wonder how this graying old man does it for so long. He breaks into a song about the Erie Canal, pops in a video or two of famous speeches and talks about important figures like Gov. Altgeld and Robert Kennedy as if he knew them.

He remembers random quotes and takes out books from his enormous collection, piled in his desk, and shows us photos and paintings to enhance our experience.

I always felt that U.S. history is the most boring subject until this year, when it all changed. Mr. Dorson not only made me appreciate U.S. history, but also history in general and the importance of knowing how we came to be.

Mr. Dorson also is the only teacher I recall who goes to every school theater production and basketball, football and volleyball games, actively cheering while people one-third his age just sit there in awe.

He truly cares if you are sick or experiencing trouble in life. He makes sure you are not cold in his class and always lets you eat breakfast if you did not do so. He listens to what each student has to say, having them repeat themselves if he didn’t hear it the first time because of his hearing aid.

He is always there at lunch, willing to listen, go over tests and data-base questions, talk about what I can do better and how I can do it and really tries to help in every way possible.

He is not afraid to be honest, to take chances and to stand up for what he believes in.

Yet because he stood up for what he believed in, he will no longer be with us.

Mr. Dorson has so much faith and belief in his students, so much ardor and love for us to do well. I know it hurt him as nothing ever had when one of his students decided to abuse that trust and cheat in his class. And I know it hurt him more when the school did not support him when he wanted to do the right thing about the issue.

And he was not the only one hurt. As I saw at our “Appreciate Mr. Dorson” event, many are incredibly hurt by what he had to go through.

Students and teachers spoke about how much Mr. Dorson has touched our lives. As Mr. Dorson told us how much this meant to him, nearly everyone cried. I am tearing up as I write this because I know that I will never have a teacher like him again.

This school will never have another Mr. Dorson. It is sad that many students will not have the opportunity to learn from him.

Catalina Foothills High is losing a great teacher, who has touched hundreds of lives. Our school has one of the highest turnover rates in the state: More than half our teachers leave within one to three years.

Now we are losing the greatest one of all. The school needs to do a better job of communicating with teachers and not let politics get in the way. Our high academic standards cannot be upheld if teachers keep leaving.

I have learned a lot from Mr. Dorson, academically and personally. Although I wish he would stay, I am inspired by his action.

Tasneem Olinda Hassan is a junior at Catalina Foothills High School.