Mr. Donaldson's Words of Wisdom

Interview by Callie Deng '14

Mr. Donaldson is a science teacher in the Magnet Program, who has been with the Magnet Program since its earliest years. When it comes to teaching, Mr. Donaldson is a storyteller of sorts; his classes are as creative and exciting as they are informative. Mr. Donaldson has been involved in evening stargazing expeditions, interpretive bonfire dances, classroom-touring choruses, and a plethora of other adventures. Currently, he teaches Earth and Space Sciences, Astronomy, Origins of Science, and Optics. When not in class, he can be found strumming away on his guitar, harmonizing with Mrs. Duval and company. There will be a retirement party for Mr. Donaldson and Ms. Dvorsky on June 7th.

Mr. Donaldson on stage at Magnet Arts Night 2010
When did you first start teaching in the magnet? What subjects did you teach? 

1987. I taught Geometry and Optics. 

What is your current favorite subject to teach and how do you teach? 

My favorite subject to teach is Origins of Science. I try to be straightforward but also encouraging of divergent thinking and learning styles. 

What are some of your favorite things about being a magnet teacher? 

I like the fact that the topics are interesting and the material in-depth. This helps me keep up my interest and challenges me to understand (unlike with some of the more basic courses like Algebra 1). Also, the students are not only intelligent but enthusiastic, which makes it much more fun. There’s no issue with classroom management, as there are in some other classes. 

How have the magnet program and its students changed since you first started teaching? 

When I first started teaching, the magnet was just a little smaller and we were gaining a grade a year. But since 1989, it has stayed about the same size (roughly 100 kids per class). The students haven’t changed as far as I can tell; they are still enthusiastic and smart! If there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that current students start off at a different level of mathematics background than before. When I first began, we taught three full geometry classes; now only a handful of students take geometry, as most have already taken the class before. Currently, we teach some different courses than we used to and there’s a broader range of courses. 

What is the best advice you can give to future magnet teachers? 

Make sure you understand the students are very bright and try to challenge their thinking. This especially applies if you have taught in a different situation, where you have to teach things several times. In the magnet, you teach more complex concepts but you often don’t have to teach them more than once, if you do it right the first time. 

Mr. Donaldson teaching middle schoolers at FIST 2013How has the magnet program impacted your life? 

[*chuckles*] Well, I suppose that most teachers my age would have retired a number of years ago; I’m the oldest teacher in the school now. Of course, I am retiring at the end of the year; but I would have retired earlier, had I not been teaching such nice students and such interesting courses. 

What are your interactions with former students and alumna? 

I keep in close touch with just a few alumni; one or two in pretty close touch, and others on Facebook. I don’t actively use Facebook, but I like to see how former students are doing. I also enjoy seeing alumni at reunions we’ve had in the past. 

Favorite memories in the magnet program? 

I and another former teacher invented magnet arts night in 1989, and I’m very proud of that. Also, I started Physics of Music Day and there are many good memories. 

What are your future plans? 

Well, I will continue to teach Origins of Science at least next year, second semester. My wife and I have talked about doing some serious traveling ---- not up to Templin’s level [*chuckles*] --- but we love traveling as much as we can. I would also like to improve my music; I keep having the excuse not to practice my guitar and I would like to do that kind of thing more often. *laughs*

If you would like to attend the retirement party for Mr. Donaldson and Ms. Dvorsky, or if you want to contribute to their retirement gift, follow the instructions in this flyer.