Sunday, June 1, 2014

Paul du Vair, retiring at 76

I started teaching in Madison in the fall of 1970 at West Junior High School. The teaching staff there was extraordinary as were the students — classes were full of the children of UW profs from the surrounding neighborhoods. At least three of the faculty were past or future presidents of MTI — the local affiliate of WEAC and the NEA, i.e. the teachers' union. Paul du Vair was one of them. As President of MTI, and later of WEAC, he solicited my advice on parliamentary matters and was always supportive.  Paul spent most of his career in the classroom where he was, already in the '70s, a "legendary" biology teacher. He is retiring this spring after over fifty years in the classroom. Today, the Wisconsin State Journal recognized him. From the article:
Du Vair stuck with high school freshmen throughout his career, racking up dozens of local and national awards for his teaching, including his favorite: “Best Teacher in the World,” given by his students in 1982.

He has taught all levels of freshman biology and created the popular, award-winning summer aquatic biology course. It will cease when du Vair retires. ....

Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores, a network administrator, said she and her sisters enrolled in du Vair’s classes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Each pursued careers in science. One sister is a cancer researcher at the University of Chicago; the other is an engineer for Boeing. ....

“I think part of what makes him so amazing and so different from most teachers is the really high standards that he sets,” she said. “He has really high expectations, but he also is extremely clear about those expectations. He gives students a very good sense of self-confidence.”

He left teaching to serve as president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state teachers’ union, in the late 1970s, but later returned to the classroom. Morris Andrews, former WEAC executive director, said a president’s return to teaching is unique, but fitting for du Vair.

Du Vair is one of the founders of WEAC. He said teachers needed a voice in the workplace and job security, and the way to achieve that was to endorse political candidates that supported “the rights of teachers and the needs of children,” he said.

In his last speech as president of WEAC, he urged the union to endorse any candidate that fit those needs — regardless of party.

“I said, ‘Don’t get stuck in one political party,’ and we did,” he said. “And what happened? The other side said, ‘Now we’re going to get you.’ And they did. They got us.” .... [more]