Silver Chips Online

Donaldson, Robert

By
April 1, 2004
by Yao Xu

Name: Robert Donaldson
Started Teaching: 1968
Been teaching at Blair: 17 years
Education: Wheaton High School, John’s Hopkins University, MIT Graduate School.
Department: Physics, History of Science and Philosophy.
Previous Jobs: Meteorologist, Research Meteorologist.
Hobbies: Singing, kayaking, playing the guitar, listening to music, hiking.

Name: Robert Donaldson
Started Teaching: 1968
Been teaching at Blair: 17 years
Education: Wheaton High School, John’s Hopkins University, MIT Graduate School.
Department: Physics, History of Science and Philosophy.
Previous Jobs: Meteorologist, Research Meteorologist.
Hobbies: Singing, kayaking, playing the guitar, listening to music, hiking.

Cheers filled the air as a person stepped up to the podium to speak. As the person started to speak, it suddenly became deathly still as his voice was carried all the way to the back of the crowd by the microphone. Robert Donaldson stood there in place, entranced, as he listened, his light blue eyes fixed on the speaker. It is August 28, 1963, during the famous March on Washington, the pinnacle of the Civil Rights Movement.

Donaldson’s face brightens up as he recalls the march. His hair, gray with age, reflects the Christmas lights hung up around the physics room.

It has been almost 17 years since Donaldson started teaching in the Magnet program at Montgomery Blair High School, but he still has not lost a bit of the magic that he brings to his class. Through every class, he manages to bring forth smiles and laughs from his students while teaching them physics. “I just think that these students are more motivated, since they spend the time to come all the way here," he says. “Because of that, I don’t have to worry so much about trying to motivate them as trying to teach and to make the experience more enjoyable for them and for me."

Another thing that makes teaching enjoyable for him here is that the teachers in the magnet program are very tight-knit. “I plan my lessons with Ms. Piper, Mr. Curran, and Mr. Bunday, [other teachers in the magnet] since they teach all my students as well. And Ms. Bishop too, since she also teaches a majority of the freshman," he says. “We also like to take road trips together during the breaks," he adds, chuckling softly.

When he was young, Donaldson participated in the Civil Rights movement on Washington with some of his friends. “We were very naïve, the night before the march, we thought that they were going to sing ‘We Shall Overcome’, and we didn’t know the lyrics, so we had to go to the library and check out a record to learn the lyrics to it."

The day after, Donaldson and his friends listened to speaker after speaker talk about freedom and equality, but missed Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream" speech. “There were no bathrooms available during the march," he says, laughing as he speaks. “Me and my friends were in such discomfort that we went home to use the bathroom. When I got home, my dad was like ‘Wow! That must have been one of the best speeches ever!’ and of course I had to admit that I missed it."
Donaldson attended about four more marches afterwards to protest the war in Vietnam, bringing his two year old and four year old to march with him sometimes. He was too old to be drafted for the war himself, but did have a brother-in-law that went to Vietnam.

After finishing college, Donaldson became an avid meteorologist, predicting the weather to inform the public. He constantly spent nights and weekends interpreting the data, sometimes sleeping as late as one or two in the morning, he says.

Predicting the weather eventually became too strenuous for Donaldson. “I constantly slept late predicting the weather and it started to mess up my sleeping and eating habits," he says, staring thoughtfully at his lesson plan for the next day.

Donaldson then moved on to research meteorology, which involves finding new weather patterns instead of predicting existing ones. “I was part of the group that discovered El Niño and how it affected the weather," he recalls, smiling broadly.

In 1968, Donaldson changed professions again, this time to teaching. “I guess I just liked working with people more," he says, looking at some of his students still working in the room.

According to Donaldson, he first started teaching math and science at Randolph Middle School for five years. Then he moved to Argyle Middle School to become the chairman of the Math Department there. After five years at Argyle, Donaldson then moved to Springbook High to teach for nine years there. After Springbrook, Donaldson was invited to teach at Blair HS, where he still teaches today.

Donaldson has no plans to retire, but knows that he will have to someday. “People kind of know when they are ready to retire," he says quietly. “You just kind of get tired."

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/3327