LAKEVIEW SPEAKER Honored teacher welcomes a challenge
Chauncy Veatch became a teacher after a 25-year military career.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
CORTLAND -- California teacher Chauncy Veatch says he's found the road to El Dorado, but instead of gold, silver and monetary riches he discovered the gems in the bright eyes and big smiles of his pupils.
Veatch, 2002 National Teacher of the Year, spoke Monday at Lakeview High School to Trumbull County entry level and mentor teachers. The program was sponsored by the Trumbull County Educational Service Center.
He became a teacher in 1995 after retiring from a 25-year military career in which he achieved the rank of Army colonel. His plan was to start as a substitute to learn the grade level and subjects that would be the best fit. He called a school district in Riverside County that unbeknownst to him was in bankruptcy and being run by the state, and many of its teachers had left. They were desperate for full-time teachers and persuaded Veatch to take one of the positions.
"I met the two requirements of teachers they were looking for," Veatch said. "They wanted a college degree, which I have, and I was breathing."
He became a teacher
He was hired as an eighth grade math and science teacher, but before the beginning of the school, the principal persuaded him to add social studies, reading, writing and physical education to the list of subjects he would teach that year.
In the school system in which he teaches, 99 percent of pupils speak Spanish as their first language, most come from families of migrant workers, many were born in other countries and the average educational level of pupils' parents is third grade. Doctors without Borders, an international humanitarian group geared at providing medical aid to victims of war or disaster, visits the community twice a year.
To connect with those in his class, he related each of their names to something that would be touched upon in class. Hector was a character in Homer's "Iliad," who demonstrated great courage. For Juana, he used the example of Joan of Arc.
Eventually, he learned Spanish, although his pupils tell him he has an accent.
He sets an example
Now a high school teacher, Veatch requests that one-third of each of his classes be composed of special education students.
He also wants students with histories of drug and alcohol abuse, those who don't speak English and those who have spent time in juvenile detention facilities.
Of the 34 students in his class last year, five joined the military and the other 29 went to college. Seventeen of those pursuing their college degrees hope to be teachers.
"There is nothing that is more patriotic than to choose to be a teacher," he said.
For those who want to pursue a profession, that is a calling rather than an occupation; "El Dorado beckons to each and every one of you," Veatch said.