Education Matters: Focus still kept on students' true potential

Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

On the way back from my family's annual trek to Tahoe we got delayed by a freak tornado (in California?) that whipped up a wind and a 4-foot wall of mud to block the one route back to our home.

Twenty miles south of Lone Pine on Route 395 I came upon a line of hundreds of cars ahead of me stopped dead in the road. They were not only stopped, but people were getting out of their cars, trying to see ahead what was holding us all up.

Had I arrived at this scene minutes earlier I would have seen this sudden deluge up close like an unfortunate few trucks that were overturned.

Over the stretch of what looked to be a solid mile of stopped cars, the word spread quickly to those of us at the back. "Flash flood —12-hour delay. Everyone will have to turn back."

By this time there were clusters of people that had gathered on the median and all of us, complete strangers, were thrown together by this unexpected turn of events.

"How are we going to get across this median with all of these huge rocks and high bushes?" one of us asked.

A group of us went up and down the median to find a place that would accommodate our cars, and once that was done, a caravan of vehicles made its way across the 20 feet or so that divided the cross traffic. I was reminded once again that people are often at their very best when they are provided an opportunity to help one another, even if they are perfect strangers.

But then it began to dawn on some of us that there were hundreds of people who suddenly needed a place to sleep for the night, and they were all headed back to the same little town, Lone Pine.

What started as an orderly retreat from our common predicament quickly turned into a mad dash back to that little town with the realization that there were too few motels to accommodate this sudden rush of lodgers. Being toward the end of the line of cars I was also that much closer to Lone Pine and managed to find one of the last rooms at a tiny motel off the main street.

Here was a town that I had passed through so many times before and on each occasion driving along its tiny main street, I was charmed by this dot in the desert and thought many times how interesting it would be to walk its streets and see up close what had been a blur on my annual trek to bigger places.

There's a high school in Lone Pine that has always intrigued me, and I found myself the next morning taking a stroll around its perimeter. It was officially my first day of retirement after 35 years of teaching high school, and there I was at 7:15 a.m. on a high school campus.

School hadn't yet started when a teacher saw me looking about and asked if I needed any help. In just a few sentences we established a professional connection, and he took the time to show me around the place.

It was a small school as one might expect, but one feature that struck me immediately was the presence of shop classes integrated into the physical layout of the campus and imbedded into the curriculum. As my guide informed me, "Some of these kids are not headed for a university, but they have other choices here to keep them in school and help them realize their true potential."

Sounds like a great idea, but I've beat that drum more than a few times in this space. The general trend in education now is to treat every student as college material, which is a colossal mistake given the present make-up of school populations in secondary schools across the nation.

How ironic that this little school in this rural outpost is able to offer a more complete education (including state-of-the-art computer technology) to its students than its urban counterparts.

On a completely different note, I want to send a birthday wish to my lovely wife, who today reaches a certain milestone age that I did a year ago. Unlike me, she looks 20 years younger and is still the girl I married nearly 40 years ago.

Happy Birthday to Nadine, my very best friend, my constant companion and the love of my life.

DAN KIMBER is a former teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@sbcglobal.net.

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