By Brie Broyles
After many years of walking East’s halls, our beloved former principal undeniably left a legacy here. Dave Thaden was the epitome of an awesome principal and, let’s face it, we miss him. So where in the world did our dear Thaden go after retirement, anyway?
He’s still around—working as a history teacher at NC School of Science and Math. Thaden enjoyed a year of “retirement” last year, permanently subbing for English teacher Amanda Galvin, who was out on maternity leave.
Students may wonder what NCSSM students may also has against us for taking Thaden away. Students may also try to comprehend how much cooler the NCSSM kids must be for Thaden to choose teaching them over us.
“This opportunity sort of fell open,” Thaden said of his new teaching position. “When I retired, I wanted to work. I hated being retired. Ms. Galvin’s leave had me sold [on working again].”
Because of the rules for retired educators in North Carolina, Thaden couldn’t get a full time job in a Chapel Hill public school. So Thaden, ready to continue teaching, sent out letters to multiple private schools, as well as NCSSM.
“It turns out that the man who runs this institution is married to a friend of mine, which I hadn’t known before—and now they needed a half-time history teacher,” Thaden said. “When I got hired back in July, I started reading up on my history. With no History certificate, it was my History minor that allowed me to teach here. Now, I’m happy to be here.”
As Thaden’s jealous former students, we may selfishly want to hear Thaden complain bitterly about the agonies of working somewhere other than East. He claims his new job is, although very different from East, interesting and enjoyable. Since the less than 700 total students at NCSSM live on campus, the atmosphere can feel foreign to someone like Thaden, who has been working in public school systems for the past couple decades.
“There’s a sense of intimacy among [the NCSSM] kids that’s different than that of East,” Thaden said. “Everything seems more intense.”
Thaden claims he is never too worried about student behavior, nor has he experienced anything too terrible, including during his years at East.
“The students at East were great, even those that thought they needed to show the world they could cause trouble,” Thaden said. “They were still great.”
Not only is the student dynamic different, but Thaden found the transition from working among East staff to his new NCSSM coworkers as a big one.
“I have a great group of colleagues,” Thaden said. “But last year’s English department was special. Since I’m a first year teacher here, I’m spending most of my time planning. At East, I could easily stop in and see my friends around school. I consider East home, and I miss it. I care about the people there and always will.”
However, Thaden makes it clear that he much prefers teaching to administrating. Despite the legend Thaden was as East’s principal, he describes his old job as something that was necessary for the school and its direction, but not as intellectually rewarding as he finds teaching to be. He admitted that although working with people as an administrator had its spiritual moments, being a teacher interests him exponentially more.
“I don’t miss being a principal at all,” Thaden said. “I don’t miss being in charge, and I don’t miss all the administrative stuff that goes into the job.”
As much as Thaden enjoys teaching, he confesses the difficulty of being a first year teacher at a whole new place, in a new environment and with new colleagues.
“Being a first year teacher is really hard,” Thaden said. “It’s not something the students think about. It takes a lot of work to start everything from scratch, but the job [has taught me] a lot of good lessons—mediocre lessons, but good ones. Everyone needs a new challenge, and this one certainly is that.”
Amidst Thaden’s teachings of the civil war and the industrial revolution, he also has some words of wisdom to impart to those of us remaining at East, including the students who never had him as a teacher or principal:
“Take advantage of opportunities, meet new friends, and don’t just stay with your old ones because it’s easy,” Thaden said. “High school should be a time that does more than reinforce what you already know—it’s a time of new learning.”
While we grudgingly accept the loss of Thaden’s presence at his school (you know what I mean—the obnoxiously cheerful morning announcements, the chilling yet amusing eyes of fury glaring you down as you run late to class, the sentimental lines of poetry read at graduations, etc.), we’ve got to wonder if the people at NCSSM know how awesome their new teacher really is.