Mr. Stark Retires

Brett Penk

We all have teachers whom we look up to. Those who have influenced us the most. We will always remember the way they molded and taught us, often giving us a new wave of motivation and interest. For me one of those teachers will always be Dan Stark. What started on a bike and lasted for thirty-two years is a legacy. The teaching career of Dan Stark will be remembered by his students for many years.

Mr. Stark started off with a geography degree, working in city planning. He soon found city planning to be boring. His second job was at park and rec. in the summer working with the pre-k and kindergarten classes. He found it to be way more fun! He enjoyed working with kids and found it to be very rewarding. Always full of great advice, he once told me, “Get a job that you are surprised to be paid for.” I will always remember this, for this is probably the reason he has stayed a teacher so long; a man who has truly loved his work.

He began his teaching career at St. Peter, Paul and Mary. A newlywed with only one car, on the first day of school his wife dropped him off, but then for the next two years he rode his bike every day. That is the type of commitment he always has shown: once he started something he would continue to do it. Always a person to start something new and exciting, he has done this from the beginning with a piece of chalk. Relearning cursive from his elementary school days and remembering how to connect the letters, he got quite good at teaching it, and all with colored chalk. He did this to make it fun and entertaining for his students; always one to be creative and caring of his pupils.

But with being a teacher comes all the moments, the good, the bad, and the ugly. He remembers the hours of listening to teenage girls singing Taylor Swift, or tens of hours riding a school bus. Then there are the unexpected moments of grief, reading a eulogy for a former student, something one never expects to do.

A favorite moment though is when there was a tornado drill at SPPM. Thinking it was a fire drill, Mr. Stark lined up his students and brought them outside! There he waited for the others to come, but no one came. Going back inside the principal stood there waiting for him. He laughed, “They sound the same!”

Some of his favorite moments at Prep include the simulations of Ellis Island. The moments when things went better than expected were what has kept him going all these years: that unexpected satisfaction. He loved preps for his ability to discuss current world issues, he was never tied to one thing. If the class had a question about a current world event he always felt he could answer it and still feel productive.

While Mr. Stark has many good memories, he looks forward to those that are yet to come. Such as experiencing the outdoors and the seasons he only ever got to experience in the classroom. He is most excited to spend more time with his family and the flexibility to do that. One thing he also looks forward to is being able to go to the boundary waters during September. Something he has never been able to do.

Mr. Stark has taught over 2,000 students, influenced many lives, and helped many people. After 32 years of teaching and seeing it all, he leaves with a piece of advice, “Questions are simple, answers are hard; we should always be searching for answers not questions.”