Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Former brewmaster likes taste of teaching

Midlife career change didn't dampen enthusiasm

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ERLANGER - The Monday after Richard Dube graduated with a Master of Arts in Teaching, he wore his gown and hood all day at Lloyd Memorial High School, where he teaches science.

"I said, 'For all the sweat and tears and money, I'm going to wear this one more day,'" Dube said.

Richard Dube explains a scientific principle to Diannea Ranae Wilson in his freshman intergrated science class.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
What's more, he figured the black gown would send a positive message to his students:

"You're never too old to learn new tricks."

Indeed, the 46-year-old Dube changed careers in midlife. The Taylor Mill man gave up a lucrative job as a brewmaster for a high school teaching job two years ago. He enrolled at Northern Kentucky University in the master's of arts in teaching program, which allowed him to teach while earning his degree.

On May 17, he graduated and was named outstanding student in the program. He started teaching a basic math course two nights a week at Cincinnati State Technical & Community College in April. But his main focus is teaching six classes in integrated science and earth and space science to freshmen and juniors at Lloyd. Wednesday is the last day of school.

His second year of teaching was easier, as he's grown more comfortable in his new role and tries new techniques. For example, he's cut the number of requests for hall passes by telling students they would have to give him five minutes after school. Also, he didn't have to do lesson plans from scratch this year. Now he's building on that foundation, adding more hands-on activities and fine-tuning lesson plans to keep up with current events.

Not only is he better organized, he has learned how important it is to set boundaries for students early on.

"They know what you expect, so it isn't a struggle all year long. I'm not saying it's perfect. It's always a work in progress."

One of his greatest frustrations is not being able to reach all students and classes.

"This group ... they're curious," he said of one class. "They are interested. They ask questions on the topic. They might not understand. (But) they still give you the effort."

He could spend 24 hours a day teaching students who don't understand, he said. It's the ones who show no interest or motivation who frustrate him.

Another class has a mix of students, including some with behavior problems and some with a special education designation.

"They fall asleep. I could tap dance and sing and walk on my head. Nothing works. Not even hands-on activities. They say, 'This is boring.' "

Just when a hand shoots up, he has a glimmer of hope - only to be dashed by the question, "What's for lunch?"

There are days he feels the class sucking the energy out of him.

"Right now, it's like my dark spot," Dube said. "I don't feel satisfied when that class leaves, because it's been so difficult and such one-way communication."

Yet he keeps looking for ways to reach them. And he gives them the benefit of the doubt, knowing that perhaps not all have idyllic home lives.

He expects next year to be his best yet. He can focus on his students without having his own class work to complete. No more evening classes. No more papers and exams. No more workaholic weekends.

It's been rough for him and his family. He can count on two hands how many free weekends he's had in the past two years. Even when he was free, he still thought about all the work he had to do.

"It was probably a lot more work then we thought it would be, but in retrospect, it was all worth it," said his wife, Danielle Pare. "When graduation day came, we were all proud of him and what he did."

Their two children, Kim, 20, and Kirk, 16, were especially proud. "They took pictures," Pare said. "They were probably as excited as their dad was."

For now, Dube is giving himself a break from his own education for at least a year. He'll continue to teach at Lloyd and Cincinnati State.

Then what?

"I think I'm crazy enough to go for my Ph.D."

E-mail ckranz@enquirer.com

This feature revisits past newsmakers. E-mail suggestions to ckranz@enquirer.com or bweathers@enquirer.com or call 768-8600.

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