Teacher of Year says he's just `giving back' what his teachers gave to him
Washington — GUY Doud's philosophy of teaching won't be found among the course offerings at very many schools of education. It isn't a complicated philosophy, really. Mr. Doud calls it ``love your neighbor.'' ``The Golden Rule is my guiding method,'' explains the young high school English teacher from Brainerd, Minn., who was named 1986 Teacher of the Year this week.
``If my students don't think I care about them, I'm not really going to get through with the academics,'' Doud told reporters before receiving a symbolic crystal apple from President Reagan at a White House ceremony Monday.
Just before the press conference preceding the ceremony, a longtime friend of the new Teacher of the Year whispered that in choosing Doud, the Encyclopaedia Britannica selection committee had ``caught a tiger by the tail.''
``He's one of the most involved, dynamic persons I've ever met,'' the friend added.
At first glance, the comment seemed an affectionate overstatement, since the somewhat mild-looking Doud doesn't have the appearance of a ``tiger.''
But when Doud took the podium, he was transformed, became The Complete Teacher -- an animated speaker and storyteller who held the attention of even the restless members of the press. At a time when educators are stressing back-to-basics, he said, it is important for teachers not to forget something even more basic than math and history -- ``the kids we teach.''
Doud illustrated: Only a few weeks ago, he was approached by a student who was about to meet his mother for the first time after five years of bitter estrangement. The student was full of apprehension. ``And here I was, thinking mainly about what a great lesson on verbals I had planned.'' In the national drive for academic excellence, Doud cautions, the emphasis on seeing and responding to human needs should not be forgotten.
If there is anything controversial about the new Teacher of the Year, who will spend much of the next 12 months on the road speaking to parents and other teachers, it is his religious faith. The young husband and father of two is an assistant minister at a nondenominational Christian church. He feels not only that there is a place for ``religious values'' in the classroom, but that there ought to be more religiously minded teachers ``of whatever domination'' in the public schools.
Kids need the role models of people who live by devout principles, he says.
Doud is quick to point out, however, that public schools are strictly off limits as a place to preach. The classroom is instead a place to ``live your faith,'' he says -- to preach with your life. ``I'd rather see a sermon than hear one anytime.''
Further, Doud is against school prayer because any prayer finally agreed upon would be generic and meaningless, and because the prayer would be led by many teachers who had no real spiritual conviction.
Doud doesn't buy the notion that public schools aren't a place to address nonacademic human needs. Even in his rural Minnesota county, he says, there are problems of child abuse, suicide, and teen pregnancy. Thirty percent of the county's children live in single-parent families. ``You bet schools have a role in helping out. Public schools are still where most kids come, and that's where we need to reach them.''
It was because a series of teachers reached out to him, Doud said in an interview with the Monitor, that he was able to overcome the effects of growing up with two alcoholic parents. At age 16, he says, he was so miserable and confused, and had such litle self-esteem, that his weight had shot up to 300 pounds.
At that point his German teacher, Henry Kopka, a former Lutheran missionary in New Guinea, took a personal interest in ``this very obese kid.''
Mr. Kopka led Doud to the Bible. And things were never quite the same. He lost weight (down to 190). And he found a new kind of life, one he says was best described by Albert Schweitzer when the noted humanitarian said: ``Unless you live in service to others, you can never truly be happy.''
Other memorable teachers also had enduring effects on Doud's life. After considering several careers, he decided to be a teacher in order to ``give back'' some of what he had gained from those who had helped him.
As Doud travels from coast to coast during the coming year, and especially when he talks with high school students, he plans to dwell on the theme of the inherent value of learning -- as contrasted with the current trend toward seeing education as merely a ticket to a higher salary. ``Life purpose, beauty, philosophy, a search for truth -- these used to be, in part, what education was all about.''
Doud is famous in his English classes for repeating the story of Emily in Thornton Wilder's play ``Our Town,'' who realizes, after being allowed to return from the grave to watch her 12th birthday party, how routinely life is lived by a good portion of mankind.
`` `Does anyone really know how beautiful life is while they are living it?' Emily asks,'' says Doud. ``That's what I want my students to ask, too.''
Doud says people are always telling him he should go into insurance or public relations or other lines of work: ``You'll make a lot more money,'' they say.
But you get back to life-principles, again, he says. ``You have to do something that you feel is right, that will be a real contribution.''
``Teachers affect eternity,'' Guy Doud says. ``They never know where their influence stops.''