Nanette Dyas: Reflections of a former Magnet teacher

by Sophia Deng

As she taught the Analysis 1B class, Nanette Dyas couldn't be happier. Looking at the eager students around her, she felt energized to teach the students everything she knew about Root and Ratio Tests. Admittedly, she was wearing last year's ID and a substitute sticker on her sweater, but still, Dyas was jubilant.

She was back at last.

For 23 years, Dyas taught in the Blair Magnet Program until she decided to retire during the 2007-2008 school year. Today, Dyas is not physically present in the 300s hallways, but students, teachers and administrators continue to feel the impact she has made in the Magnet Program and Blair community.

The tough choice

It's no surprise that Dyas has frequently claimed that the Magnet Program is her "baby" - she cares deeply about the program and is willing to fight for it to be the best possible. The past year, this determination to fight even caused her to leave. "I didn't like the changes being made in the Magnet - the losses in academic freedom and respect for professional decisions," she said.

Dyas is still unhappy about the effects of the recent Montgomery County budget cut and the transformations it has brought upon the Magnet structure. "I don't think there's much academic support, like Math help and lab time, things we take for granted," she ponders. "My belief is that teachers don't have the time."

Despite her concern with the cut, Dyas believes that the county's money problem only represents a short-term setback. Instead, she worries more about the larger picture, the United States' future without programs such as the Blair Magnet. "I don't believe there is support for exceptional kids," she bluntly notes. "It's a shame for the country if it doesn't have an outlet to train our strongest kids to solve problems," she says.

According to Dyas, providing excelled students with an enriched environment such as Blair is an obligation. "We owe the brightest kids the place to go with other bright kids with the same academic interests," she says. Dyas may not be a teacher anymore, but in her heart, she will always be an educator, promoting the value of schooling and the interests of students.

Life after the Magnet

Dyas's decision to leave teaching was mostly based on her dissatisfaction with internal changes in the Magnet and with adjustments in the county's math curriculum. But like most retired teachers, she did have more standard reasons of leaving her job. "I was physically tired," she admitted.

When Dyas was a Magnet teacher, she had a hectic schedule. Every weekday, she got to Blair at 6 a.m., taught classes and drew up lesson plans. Now that she is relieved of the hard work, Dyas enjoys a slower-paced and more lax lifestyle.

Rather than waking up in the wee hours, Dyas gets up much later and is able to savor her coffee while reading the newspaper or completing sudokus. She also has more time to walk her dog, Sophie, something she has always loved to do. In the near future, Dyas even hopes to travel around the world, specifically to Ireland and Antarctica, in order to get glimpses of nature. "I'm in awe with our natural surroundings and world."

A teacher forever

Although she has plans for fun, Dyas is not all play and no work. Currently, she teaches a night school class, Calculus I, at Montgomery College for two nights per week. The teaching style is different from the one she used at Blair. "It's more lecture, less interaction," she said.

Teaching has been and always will be one of Dyas's favorite things to do because she loves passing her math knowledge onto everyone who steps into her classroom."I get so much energy for explaining and giving insight," she says. "I'm never complaining about teaching."

Even though Dyas is presently teaching elsewhere, Dyas's heart still remains in the Blair Magnet Program. "I miss it a lot," she admits, smiling wistfully.

This feature will appear in the 2009 edition of SilverQuest.