A Letter from "Bio Bill" George
Dear GDS Community,
It has been my privilege, for 38 years, to teach at this extraordinary school. I've had a great run. Thank you! I’m filled with a sense of pride and gratitude. Memories are flooding in, too many to acknowledge here; however, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few highlights from my career as I say farewell.
I was fortunate to have begun my tenure at the MacArthur Boulevard High School “campus” [on the site of what is now the River School] in 1983. I was greeted at the door by Elaine Scott. I so remember her warmth, kindness, and welcoming greetings. Yes, all that you may have heard about its colorful, off-the-wall, zany atmosphere and eccentricities are accurate. No exaggeration, GDS was a patchwork of townhouses posing as a school; a student lounge with a trench where student pranks would unfold; a gym transforming into a theater nightly; a German Shepherd roaming about; Allen Ginsberg reciting poetry; Miss Manners giving tips and Kurt Waldheim discussing a new world order. The passageways to classrooms conjured up a subterranean fantasy like a rabbit warren with twists and turns every few yards until you reached a secret door to your room. GDS was an innovative, creative labyrinth—thrilling, baffling, reassuring, exasperating, comforting, exciting, and just a really fun place to be. It was a school with no rules except shoes on your feet, but also a school that promoted a true love of learning. Occupying each available crevice was an assemblage of the best educators in the field—loving, nurturing, joyful, and brilliant; extraordinary teachers who honestly believed, “Students first and all else second.”
I was introduced to the GDS community not in your typical fashion—in the Big Room on opening day—but by appearing in a musical. “So, we hear you can sing and act, Bill. We’re doing a staff show, The Fantasticks, for our fall opening of school to raise money for student scholarship. It would be great to have you in the show.” I thought, “This is the only place I want to teach.” Even more affirming was my interview with staff—in particular, Gladys. I was overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude for the staff’s commitment to academic excellence, diversity, and inclusion. For the first time in my life, as an out and proud gay man, I felt accepted and safe.
It wasn’t long before I realized that I was among titans in education—Laura Rosberg, Kevin Barr, John Burghardt, Bruce Ruble, Barbara Lockwood, Fran Young, Gary McCown, Janet Hahn, Mike Kirchberg, Charles Psychos, Terri Williams, and Debbie Haynes. Simply put, their passion and dedication to teaching children were and are unmatched. I listened and learned from the masters, integrating their teaching methods into my lessons. Thanks to them, my pedagogical toolbox overflowed with new ideas.
Being asked to chair the High School science department was the pinnacle of my teaching career. I worked closely with Wes Gibson, Walter Ailes, and Paul Levy—exemplary former administrators. Paul in particular was instrumental in guiding me through many facets of a department chair’s responsibilities. He was everything you wanted in a mentor—knowledgeable, empathetic, trustworthy, visionary, reliable, and willing to listen and support your needs. I will forever be grateful to him for his leadership.
My time as department chair brought an exciting, innovative science curriculum to our new school on Davenport Street. I had the pleasure to work with incredible science teachers throughout those 10 years and beyond—a truly dedicated staff whose joy in teaching science was and is unequaled.
In typical GDS fashion, a teacher’s interests beyond their chosen field are celebrated, too. I was able to share many of my interests with the community. This included LGBT activism, theater, classical music, weight training, and Middle Eastern cooking. I was so fortunate to be asked by performing arts chair Laura if I would like to be a guest director. I jumped at the chance to work with the best educational theater program in the country. Being guest director in the performing arts department for over 30 years was one of my most rewarding experiences. I will be forever grateful to Laura for her mentorship and loving friendship.
My farewell would not be complete without giving thanks to all my students, past and present. You have defined me as an educator and given my life purpose. I have learned more from you than any other source; you have filled my life with such joy. Your love of learning, enthusiasm, respect, and sincerity will be held close to my heart for the rest of my days. Thank you, Mighty Hoppers!
My new chapter begins. For starters, I want to learn Italian, cook Italian, drink Italian wine, and visit Italy. To that point, la bella vita. Grazie mille, GDS.