English teacher says good-bye to Blazers
No one has taught more Blair students than 12th-grade English teacher Norman Stant.
Now in his 36th year at Blair, Stant found his niche within the crowded halls of Blair High School in the fall of 1968, not 20 miles from where he was raised in Chevy Chase. Today, he ambles leisurely through the halls greeting students and teachers alike, at the school into which he has integrated 36 years of his life.
Bitten by the teaching bug
Stant's passion for teaching began in childhood. "It sounds crazy," he admits, "but I knew I was going to teach since the eighth grade." Inspired by his eighth-grade math teacher, Stant began taking upper-level math courses in college at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. But, the more classes he took, the less he understood, and he began to wonder if math was the best path for him. "I was passing Calculus, but I wasn't understanding a thing," he confesses.
He talked to his advisor, and both soon realized that his true gift lay not in numbers but in words. "I just didn't have the brains to be a math teacher," Stant jokes. "If I had continued onto that path, I think I may have failed it altogether." Hence, Stant began pursuing a major in English. Fresh out of college in 1968, he was called for an interview at Blair and was soon hired to teach 12th-grade English.
Since that year, Stant has remained faithful to teaching his seniors. "I have loved 12th grade," he remarks. "There is a real maturing between 11th and 12th; over the summer, they tend to grow up. Seniors you can really talk to. I'm very grateful." He has since taken the role of Senior Class Sponsor and is responsible for such major events as the Senior Prom and graduation. This year's Class of 2004 will mark his 31st year as sponsor.
Stant smiles fondly as he reflects on the passing of the years. He recalls the transition from Old Blair to the New ("I remembered the old, but I certainly didn't miss it"); Mrs. Stickley, the librarian in the early 70s, and her "little pokey bear" (which later became "even more of a mascot than the Blazer") and even his involvement in school musicals as the rehearsal pianist ("Just being involved, it was something").
He recalls a particular moment when he realized just how long he'd been teaching: it was the first day of school, and a senior girl had come up to him and said cheerfully, "My mom said to say hello to you!" Stant was momentarily stunned, and later, much amused—"I just couldn't believe it," he remarks. "I had taught both the daughter and the mother!"
In Stant's 36 years, hundreds of students have shuffled through his classroom doors. As a teacher, he says, "we never know exactly how we impact our students," but he has always striven to be a positive influence in their lives. "By trying to be a model in the way I dress, speak, present myself and try to put my all into my daily lessons," he remarks, "I just may get through to one or two students."
Stant had originally planned to retire after 35 years but changed his mind when, at the end of his 35th, he found himself in the midst of a three-year contract that promised him a five percent raise if he stayed. "I thought, for five percent, I can easily stay on for a 36th year. [Even] when I started this year, I really didn't plan to retire."
However, the deciding factor came in the financial statement at the end of June 2003 which revealed that he could be comfortably living off his retirement earnings without having to come to Blair every morning. "I looked at the figure quoted there and thought, that's almost what I'm making now," Stant says. So after tallying all his fixed expenses and realizing he was financially secure either way, Stant decided, "It's time"—and promptly resolved to leave.
He is firm in his decision, but he will always be grateful for his students, his colleagues and his school. And, although leaving 36 years of memories behind may seem daunting for some, Stant is approaching his retirement with optimism. "I don't think it will be bad at all," he says. "I'll remain in the area. I'll only be a phone call away." By planning to live near Blair, he hopes to also have access to Blair community events. "I still plan to come back and see plays," he says.
After retiring, Stant hopes to travel and involve himself in volunteer work, but he currently has no definite plans. One thing is almost certain, though: he will not be taking another job. "Someone once told me to say no to everything [every job offer] for a year," he remarks. "But then again," he adds, "never say never."
When not bustling around school, Stant is also an active member in his church and his community. He is a loyal fan of musical theater and loves classical music and easy-listening jazz. He lives in a townhouse and delights in working in his garden.
In spite of his numerous outside interests, teaching is still paramount to all that Stant does. "[Teaching] is one of the most rewarding professions… You more than make up for any lack of pay in running into students that you've taught, years later, and seeing how you changed their lives," he says.
"We seldom know what happens to our students, but I've now taught long enough to get a few emails and letters from students," he adds. "Then, too, I've run into one or two students from time to time as I'm out shopping or eating. I have received some very kind words from a number of these students. I guess I have touched one or two along this 36-year journey."
Thirty-six years older and indefinitely wiser, Stant has enjoyed his time at Blair. "My whole life has been Blair," he remarks. "You can't just cut it out completely."
For Stant, everything seems to have conspired to bring him a rich, rewarding, full 36 years. "I have a wonderful school, a wonderful department, and I have great colleagues…" He trails off, overcome with gratitude. "Heavens no, I wouldn't change a thing."
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