Saying goodbye to Mr. Kimball

Movies such as “To Sir, With Love,” “Dead Poet’s Society,” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus” have introduced us to the kind of teachers whose mottos, methods and care for their students echo in those young people’s minds for the rest of their lives.

Doug Kimball has been teaching at Redmond High School since 1973.

Doug Kimball has been teaching at Redmond High School since 1973.

Longtime teacher ready to retire

Movies such as “To Sir, With Love,” “Dead Poet’s Society,” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus” have introduced us to the kind of teachers whose mottos, methods and care for their students echo in those young people’s minds for the rest of their lives.

Once in a while, movie stars or athletes will give credit to a real-life educator whose words of wisdom or encouragement helped set them on their path to fame and fortune. But many teachers may never know how many ordinary kids they’ve deeply influenced or how their involvement might have changed the fate of a student who was lonely, neglected or prone to risk-taking.

As this school year draws to a close, Redmond High School (RHS) is losing two teachers who’ve weathered more than three decades in this tough profession and in the Lake Washington School District.

Doug Kimball has been at RHS since 1973, teaching English, creative writing, newspaper and yearbook classes and coaching soccer.

Ray Cassidy has spent 36 years in the district — 10 at Lake Washington High School and 26 at RHS — teaching social studies classes such as United States history, Washington state history and American government. He was also a football and baseball coach and an athletic coordinator.

Today, the Redmond Reporter will highlight Kimball’s memories and plans for the future. Look for Part 2 of our series, a profile of Cassidy, in the next edition.

A TWIST OF FATE

Doug Kimball grew up in Bellevue and graduated from Sammamish High School and University of Washington.

“I always wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps as a stockbroker,” he said. Although he found himself gravitating toward creative writing in the midst of his business studies, “you couldn’t change your major sequence during the Vietnam War or you would be drafted.”

He completed his business degree, was drafted anyway, placed into the Defense Information School and went to Vietnam to do photos, interviews and layouts for a military magazine.

Back in the U.S. 13 months later, he decided to try teaching, “to do something I loved, the English and writing part — I wasn’t too sure about the kids yet,” Kimball noted. After earning his teaching credentials, he student-taught at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, then got a call saying RHS needed someone who could teach accounting, advise the newspaper staff and maybe fill in with an English class or two.

“And I’ve been here ever since,” he mused.

WATCHING THE YEARS GO BY

Kimball said the biggest change at RHS is that the rigor of the curriculum has increased.

“When I started, there was one Honors class, American studies, with maybe 60 kids. We were a small school, it was pretty rural. There was no AP (Advanced Placement) then. The population has changed quite a bit — more upper middle class, less rural,” he said.

“It used to be all-inclusive, with auto shop, tech stuff. Those things are mostly off-campus now. Now we’re more academic … more arts and sciences.”

Modern technology has also been a major change: “We’ve gone from mimeographs and chalkboards to white boards, from renting movies and showing them with a big projector to videos and DVDs. With newspaper production, we used to spend days cutting and pasting. Now it’s all computerized. And we’ve gone from old-fashioned dark rooms to all digital photography.”

He said he’s always been impressed with RHS students’ attitudes. “It has a lot to do with their parents putting a lot of value on education. Most students continue to take a pretty good academic load as seniors, even though they don’t have to. I think they’re about as respectful as they’ve ever been. I’ve asked myself if I could have moved someplace else, but where would I rather be? I could never come up with an answer.”

Asked what he’ll miss most, he answered without hesitation. “There have been many, many wonderful students. I’ll miss the kids the most — in soccer, journalism and yearbook, I got really close to the kids. We spend a lot of time together outside of class.”

“I’ll miss the intensity in the classroom,” he continued. “I won’t miss writing letters of recommendation. It’s not that I don’t want to write them, but you want to do a good job. I won’t miss the constant pressure where there’s always something to grade.”

He’ll miss colleagues, too, but plans to join a group of retired RHS teachers who get together on “big days” such as the first day of a new school year, when they might be feeling wistful.

Besides those milestones in every school year, there are certain moments in our collective history that stand out in Kimball’s mind.

“The Space Shuttle disaster happened in the morning, so we were in class. The kids were stunned, there was a unified sense of loss,” he said. “And on 9/ll, my wife and daughter were bonding in Washington, D.C., walking at the Washington Mall when they heard a huge explosion and non-stop sirens …”

For several hours, as news of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon poured out, Kimball didn’t know where his loved ones were or if they were safe, yet he had to function as a responsible adult amidst his students who were very fearful that there could be more attacks.

RIDING OFF INTO THE SUNSET

Thankfully, Kimball’s wife Terri and daughter Lindsay were okay and were able to come home several days later. Terri works for the City of Seattle, as division director of violence and sexual assault prevention. She and Kimball live in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood.

Lindsay is married and lives in Houston.

Kimball said he looks forward to eventual grandparenthood and filling his days with things he hasn’t had much time to do. He and his wife have some property on Vashon Island that needs maintenance, but he also enjoys the pace of city life, he said.

“I’ll do some writing and photography. I enjoy the outdoors and think I’ll take a master gardeners’ class.”

He and Terri have travel plans, as well. “We’re driving down to the Oregon Coast and Yosemite, and going to Italy in the spring. My wife is thrilled that we don’t have to time vacations around the school year anymore.”

He said he doesn’t want to be “a pest,” showing up at RHS too much after his retirement, “but I’ve promised the newspaper and yearbook kids that I’ll be around to answer questions, and the same with the soccer kids.”

We asked Kimball how he’ll be feeling at this year’s moving-up assembly, when the seniors leave the building for the last time and he knows he will soon be doing the same.

He was silent for several moments, visibly moved.

“Emotions can sneak up on you. But I can be stoic when I have to,” he replied, his voice a near-whisper.


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