Paul Blair has been teaching health and physical education to generations of students at Evergreen Middle School for the past 35 years, but he’s finally decided to retire at the end of this school year.
Blair has taught at the school since it was opened in 1982, but was teaching for three years before that too.
“I purposefully stay here after 35 years,” he said. “I love the community.”
Blair lives in Woodinville with his wife, who teaches at Shoreline Community College, and said what he’s looking forward to the most in retirement is not having a set schedule.
While he plans on working as a substitute teacher next year, picking up woodworking again and traveling the country with his wife, he said he’ll feel it out.
“My whole adult life has been wrapped around 50-minute blocks of time,” he said.
But that’s not a complaint coming from Blair, who lights up as he talks about teaching students about, and how to head off problems like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Running along nearly a full wall of the his portable classroom is a table chock full of props, pictures, dummies and even a human lung. Blair laughingly calls it his “gross-out table.”
Aside from making for good visual demonstrations, they help draw his eighth-grade students in, which is central to how Blair has taught during his tenure.
“Anything to get the kid’s attention,” he said.
Classroom discussions and using real-life examples of how health problems affect students’ lives also help, he said.
Blair said he chose to work with middle school and junior high students because, he said, they are at a critical juncture in their lives. One where students will decide who they want to be in high school and beyond.
Because of this, he said there’s one guiding idea he tries to drive home.
“The key is for them to make their own choices, I use that word a million times throughout the semester,” he said. “Life is about choices.”
Helping students make those and other choices is what got him interested in teaching in the first place, Blair said.
The faculty atmosphere at Evergreen Middle School also helped keep him at the school as teachers and staff all lend each other a hand and collaborate.
As he was sitting in his portable classroom on Friday afternoon, his colleague Marti Morrison popped in.
“He’s one of the best things to happen to Evergreen,” she said.
Blair has been teaching at the school since it opened, and in that time he’s seen it grow from one with around 600 students to more than double that number enrolled for next year.
He’s seen generations of students grow up and watched their children come through his class.
The teaching profession has also changed since he started in both positive and stressful ways. Blair said he loves that collaboration between teachers has become more of a focus over the years, but said teaching has also become more of a consuming and demanding job with greater regulations and more paperwork.
But he’s happy with his choice and time spent teaching.
“I’ve had a fun career, it’s been a lot of fun,” he said. ”I know in my heart, it’s time to retire.”