KARI GOTTFRIED (originally published in Vol. I, Issue VII, March 2017)
When I enter Eric Dazey’s classroom during mentoring, it takes me a moment to locate his whereabouts. Instead of sitting at his desk, grading papers, he is engaged with the students: administering tests, answering questions, and explaining confusing concepts. During our interview, we are stopped several times by students that have questions for him. It doesn’t throw him off at all, in fact, it even makes him more focused when we get those moments of peace. When Dazey is talking to you, he isn’t running through a list of other things he has to do. You have his full attention. His intensity can be scary for some at the beginning of the year; it can hit you head-on. “At the beginning of the year, Mr. Dazey intimidated me because he was so intense”, said Kenneth Kang, a sophomore.
However, by the end of the year (even by the end of an interview), Dazey has definitely made an impact on you. “Mr. Dazey is one of my favorite teachers because he understands his students”, says freshman Sam Jordan.
He grew up in Corvallis and graduated from CV in 1985, but he doesn’t feel pressured for working at the rival school. It’s been almost 32 years, after all, and he’s taught at CHS for just over twenty of those years.
“[Corvallis] has a similar spirit [after all these years]”, mused Dazey. “Generally, we’re pretty good to each other.” He adds that while in high school most people want to escape Corvallis, but that it’s a great place to return to in order to raise a family. While he knows the school well, the students are always cycling through. Every year is a new challenge: different classes, different students, different names. However, Dazey views it as an opportunity: he says that one of the best parts of being around Corvallis High is the ability to be around so many different and amazing people. “I began a habit of stealing qualities from people I admired”, Dazey laughed. He uses Kevin Gregg (fellow CHS alumnus, MLB player, and father of current freshman Ryan Gregg) as an example. He said. “Early on, [Kevin] modeled drive and vision… he took great risks to make [what he wanted to do] happen.” Gregg went on to play baseball professionally (“something he always said he wanted to do”, added Dazey), and has served as an inspiration for Dazey ever since.
As a teacher. Dazey also fulfilled childhood dreams: “I knew I wanted to be a teacher in seventh grade”, he explained. He worked hard and persevered, but he had a few struggles along the way. One of the most famous stories he tells his students is about the first time he failed a test.
“I had a great math background from the schooling I’d had here in 509J, so I was pretty confident going into college…When it came to my sophomore year, I hit a course that I hadn’t yet wrapped my mind around. I came into the first midterm thinking I was ready… I wasn’t. I got a six out of one hundred. There was only one midterm and one final left, so I had to do very well on those [to pass the class]. That’s when I started going in for office hours, so I got to know the professor very well… I had to change the way that I studied. I worked harder than I had ever worked… I didn’t get a ton of Cs in college, but that’s one I’m proud of. I had a desk, wherever I lived, and for the rest of college, I put that test above my desk as a reminder that you don’t always know what you think you know. That C represented to me all kinds of success.”
He learned from that day, and while he tells his students that story he wants them to learn from it too. Dazey is beyond dedicated to his students and their success. Every Tuesday night, he dedicates a portion of his time to anyone that needs extra help. All his students are welcome to come back to school on Tuesday nights and work together on homework, or study for an upcoming exam. “Those study groups helped me save my GPA and really understand matrices!” stated former Honors Algebra 2/College Algebra student Joo-hee Lee. “I’d come in before a big test and work with my friends and Mr. Dazey, and walk into class a lot more confident the next day.” As a coach, husband, and father of two, it isn’t easy for Dazey to choose to spend his time this way, but he continues to do it because he knows it’s important to help those who ask for it.
What makes a great teacher? As teenagers, we’ve been in school, with teachers, for most of our lives. Throughout the years, we’ve had terrible teachers, amazing teachers, and lots of mediocre ones. They have one of the most important jobs in society: shaping the minds of tomorrow. Eric Dazey is a shining example of all that a good teacher can be: engaged, passionate, and dedicated. But the thing that sets Dazey apart is his ability to seamlessly combine his math lessons with life lessons. He reflected, “We’re studying exponential functions in Honors Algebra II/College Algebra, and we know that money grows exponentially when you keep investing… People call it the magic of compound interest. But [at CHS], we also have Spartan magic… I’ve benefited from the magic of compound interest, in terms of people investing in my life, and I’m very thankful.