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B-52 Air Force navigator turns to teaching

Teacher Feature
By: Bridget Jones, Telegraph Correspondent
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Duff Holt is a sixth-grade science and math teacher at Marina Village Middle School in El Dorado Hills. Q: How long have you been a teacher and why did you want to get into the education field? A: I never wanted to be a teacher. In fact, during my high school and college days, teachers were the enemy. It wasn’t until the conclusion of my 20-year Air Force career as a B-52 navigator that I realized I needed a second job to last me to retirement age. I had discovered that I was successful volunteering as a Cubmaster, and later as a Scoutmaster with my sons in a local Fair Oaks troop. As our troop grew from a dozen boys to over 50, I realized that I had a knack for organizing, motivating and leading pre-teen kids. Why not become a teacher? So I supplemented my MA with a teaching credential from National University and sent out resumes. Only the Rescue Union School District responded. Little did I know at that time that this relatively little district was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Twenty-two years later, I’m still in sixth grade. Q: What do you enjoy about teaching your particular subjects? A: My navigator background directly supports my math interest. But science is perhaps my favorite, especially environmental and earth science. The opportunity for hands-on instruction is greatly enhanced by our Outdoor Education program. For one full week each fall, the entire sixth-grade class journeys to Ft. Bragg and explores ecosystems such as tide pools, Redwood forests, sand dunes, the ocean beach, and a pygmy forest — one of two in the entire world. My greatest joys are seeing a student marvel at the tube feet of a starfish, or hold a banana slug in their hand or have fellowship around a beach campfire. These are the kind of experiences that kids remember for a lifetime … and I can be part of that. Q: What do you enjoy about teaching at Marina Village School? A: I appreciate the high academic and behavior standards established at Marina by the teachers and staff, as well as the parents of our students. Our STAR testing scores last year were the highest in El Dorado County, which speaks to the quality of our students and faculty. Q: What methods and tools do you use as a teacher to challenge your students? A: In addition to the obvious textbooks, homework problems and writing assignments, I try to do as many “hands-on” projects as possible. We’ve built volcanoes, structures to withstand earthquakes, model watersheds (tested with “rain” from a watering can), and even raised salmon from fertilized eggs in our classroom. The Granite Bay Flycasters Club for supplied the material. I like to use oral discussion and student interaction to “get the point across.” Q: What are your hopes for the futures of your students? A: My hope is that all students will develop into responsible, productive and happy citizens. Since I have been teaching for such a long time, I am blessed with many former students who have returned to relate their successes. I have attended wedding receptions, Eagle Scout Courts of Honor, and theatrical productions at high schools and colleges. I have held new babies. I have talked with soldiers, law enforcement officers, newspaper writers, bankers, accountants and even an MIT genetic engineer. The fact that these former students have returned to say “hello” to their old sixth-grade teacher is very rewarding and motivating for me. My hopes for the futures of my students have been met.