by Buckley Jensen
In the spring of 2006, I hauled two truckloads of teaching paraphernalia back to Monticello. I had completed nine years at the ARL Middle School in Blanding, and 19 years in the profession, and I was looking forward to moving on.
I had driven to Blanding and back over 2,000 times between 1997 and 2006. During that time, I hit three deer, had airbags explode in my face, and sustained $9,000 in damage to various vehicles. Who says teaching is not exciting?
I have loved “retirement”. There is a lot to be said for total freedom after 45 years of trying to meet other people’s expectations and dodging Bambi’s. The word “retirement” is something of a misnomer, since I have spent most of it “sloshing in wet concrete”, metaphorically speaking. Doing so has reminded me that bricks, boards (and especially concrete) are not as much fun nor as challenging as bright-eyed, precocious students.
I taught school intermittently between 1969 and 2006. With my large family, and several business ventures, I had a tough time sticking with teaching for longer than a few years at a time. I did better financially in private business, but cans of peas at Jensen’s Food Town and boards in the Jensen Development Co. never rang my chimes like being in a classroom.
That I was ever a teacher at all was the result of a terrible accident: At 6 a.m. on a cold, Sunday morning in late October, 1969 Monticello High School Principal Dale Maughan knocked on my door. He informed me that the young English teacher at MHS (Marvin Lindquist) had been killed the previous afternoon in a deer hunting accident.
Since I had the credentials to teach, Principal Maughan requested that I fill in until he could find a permanent teacher. I was the manager at my Dad’s grocery store at the time. I grew up in the grocery business and business was the career path I had chosen.
Nevertheless, I agreed to fill in for a couple of weeks at MHS. The students were wonderful. In those days there was a dress code in the San Juan School District. Girls wore dresses; boys tucked their shirts in and they did not feel the need for long hair, tattoos and body piercing.
There was respect shown to teachers… even novices like me. I loved it. MHS won the state football championship two weeks after I started teaching and that was more exciting than anything that ever happened in a grocery store. Principal Dale didn’t seem to be in any hurry to find a new teacher. I ended up staying until 1976, with a sabbatical in l972 to earn a master’s degree.
In 1976 I left education to devote full time to business ventures. Eleven years later, when the economy was at an all time low in Monticello, we moved to Mesa, Arizona. I taught for six years at the largest high school (Dobson) in Arizona, where there were more English teachers than the total faculty and staff at MHS. It was a very different experience than the one at MHS, but I loved it too.
We moved back to Monticello in 1993. In 1997, I started teaching again at the Albert R. Lyman Middle School in Blanding. I had never taught at the middle school level and everyone told me I was crazy.
Eighth graders were definitely different than high school students, but I found their honesty and enthusiasm refreshing and enjoyed nine years with some of the best students I ever had.
Eighteen months have passed since I became a free man. I tell myself that I am happier, but some days I am not sure. The sheer magic that sometimes occurs in a classroom has rarely been duplicated anywhere else, and I miss those marvelous teaching moments.
My sweet little 8th grade ARL Mustangs have grown into San Juan Broncos, college students, missionaries, members of the armed forces, moms and dads and productive citizens. They make me proud. The ones still in school are state football champions, state vollyball champions and have stellar academic achievements spanning the educational spectrum.
There is hardly a week goes by that I don’t read or hear about some outstanding achievement by one or more of my former students. What a thrill! I never got that feeling from a can of peas or wet concrete.
Teaching at MHS in the early 1970’s, I thought I had the best students in the world…And even though I guess I will always be a Buckaroo, I know that the Broncos are cut from the same cloth as their “Cello” cousins. The only difference is the color of their uniforms.
Despite the challenges and problems, San Juan County still produces some of the finest young men and women in this great country. I wonder if we realize how blessed we are to raise our families in places like Blanding and Monticello.