For twelve years, Dr. Denis DuBay has taught all levels of Earth and Environmental science at Leesville Road High School, and the 2010-11 school year marks his retirement.
“I didn’t always want to be a teacher,” DuBay remembered. “I was working in the state office of environmental education, doing teacher workshops, but I’d never taught until that point. I realized that if I really wanted to change education about the environment, I had to be the one teaching it.”
Many past students remember DuBay for his strange pronunciations of the words “water” and “potassium.” Current students know him for his hands-on labs, “DuBates” on current environmental topics, and, in the winter months, his cardigans. But every student, past and present, knows and appreciates him for his true passion for teaching and the environment.
Michael Goff, junior, took notice of DuBay’s enthusiasm for the environment and learned more because of it. “[Dr. DuBay] was a great teacher because not only was he very knowledgeable in the material, he actually cared about it, too. I still walk around naming bird calls and identifying trees!”
“I started thinking about retiring in the fall semester of this year,” DuBay remembered. “But I don’t think I made the actual decision until around January.”
For DuBay, the decision to make a lateral entry move into teaching was a tough one to make. “[When you make a] lateral entry into teaching, most people don’t make it [as teachers]. We have a number of lateral entry teachers at Leesville that made good, but I remember my first year around November, my mentor said ‘I don’t know anyone who’s made it this far.’”
He also acknowledges the equal risk that he takes by leaving teaching now, twelve years later. “I don’t want to stop working,” DuBay clarified. “I want to do other things, but [those things that] I have in mind might not work out.”
Specifically, DuBay hopes to make some money by writing in his retirement. As he has not been a writer on a full time basis or ever tried to make a career from writing, he is reasonably wary about his odds. “If that doesn’t work out,” DuBay wondered, “is there going to be something else to keep me productively occupied in science in another way?”
Besides the risks, there are also memories and experiences that DuBay will miss as he looks back on his time at Leesville. “I will definitely miss the interaction with students. No matter what I end up doing, I’ll still be able to be creative, but I won’t have that day-to-day interaction.”
DuBay is also looking forward to the perks of no longer being a full time teacher. “I will not miss waking up at five a.m. and grading papers,” he emphasized.
Goff is sad to see DuBay go but knows that he will always remember his AP Environmental Science teacher. “[DuBay] is a really good teacher, but also a nice guy. I can tell that even if he’s not teaching students, he’ll be teaching someone about how we can save the environment.”