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Ware and camel pucker up in front of ancient pyramids while visiting Cairo, Egypt.

Ware in the World?

[heading style=”1″]Social studies teacher to take position abroad[/heading]What can be accomplished in 12 years?

In 12 years a child can grow to a teenager. In 12 years a teenager can grow to the beginnings of his career, facing the challenges and hardships of a new life.

In the most recent 12 years of his life, Dan Ware has traveled across oceans and sought adventure outside the United States (excluding the 43 states he has already seen), traveling to places such as Hungary, Morocco, Japan and 71 other countries.

Ware poses for the camera while dressed in fur-like drab on the Yangtze River in China.
Ware poses for the camera while dressed in fur-like drab on the Yangtze River in China.

The 12-year-old Ware, who now teaches geography, couldn’t imagine life outside of his rural town of Richland, Mo, population of 5,000. Back then, he didn’t know the capital of Nigeria (Abuja) or the geographical coordinates of Australia (27°S, 144°E).

Ware recalls one of his first big steps which would carry him out of his small town and into the new world of college and Columbia, Mo. Just the idea of continuing education outside of high school, which had a graduating class of 96, was a dream for many, and Ware received the opportunity to live it.

“I was going to be the first one in my family to go to college,” Ware said.

Immediately, the new experience brought obstacles and challenges. The achievements of Ware created for him a high academic reputation in the minds of his peers and teachers. The first steps toward his college experience had Ware diving into pre-medicine courses and ending with his doctorate. The only problem was Ware felt uneasy about his choice.

“I felt like the decision I made initially was not for me but for everyone else,” Ware said. “I asked myself ‘What will I enjoy doing? What is it that I can do with my life that I will truly enjoy?’ Because life’s too short to be working for a paycheck.”

Describing his life altering realization as an epiphany, the moment occurred close to the end of Ware’s senior year, leading him to become a teacher.

“I think we run across those moments in our life a lot, where we have to make a decision,” Ware said. “Truly the willingness to take a risk, to be bold can turn those moments into really critical moments.”

Ware changed his major to education, deciding that teaching would make the difference he wanted and would also leave him happier than other choices he could have made. Based on his caliber of learning and his academic ability, Ware said many were shocked and taken aback by his decision to become a teacher.

“I faced a lot of disappointment…especially with my teachers,” Ware said. “When I would tell them what I was doing they would be like ‘Why? What are you doing? You can do anything! Why do you want to be a teacher?’ And for me the answer was, ‘’Cause this is going to make me happy.’”

Becoming a teacher led Ware to RBHS and classrooms and hallways filled with friendly faces and caring individuals. Beginning his student teaching here, Ware loved the school immediately.  With open arms, Ware happily accepted his 12 year career future at RBHS.

“I knew within minutes of walking through the door that this is where I wanted to be,” Ware said.

U.S. History teacher Dan Ware helps Senior Daniel Duerto decipher nationalities through questionable names.
U.S. History teacher Dan Ware helps Senior Daniel Duerto decipher nationalities through questionable names. Photo by Maribeth Eiken

The halls held a sufficient amount of comfort for Ware, forming for him a home-away-from-home atmosphere. However, a new experience once again brought hardships and obstacles.

Ware described his first year as a “ roller-coaster.” With teaching consisting of trial and error, Ware had his work cut out for him. Equal amounts of successes and failures kept Ware at an emotional war with himself, always leading him to ask,“What am I doing?”

An awful Friday ending an awful week shook Ware to his core. Feeling rejected and under-appreciated as a side effect of his students giving him a hard time and acting ornery during class, Ware went off in what started as a silent frenzy and escalated to a minor breakdown in front of a very good friend and colleague. Ware contemplated why he had even become a teacher in the first place.

To escape the negativity steaming in his classroom, he made a short journey to purchase a chocolate milkshake at McDonald’s to help remedy his emotional pain; when he returned, an unforgettable event took place.

“I was all by myself in my room, and I was just kind of staring off into space and really just thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’” Ware said. “This girl walked into my room, and I will never forget her.”

While narrating the event, Ware’s eyes became red, almost shedding tears of glad remembrance. He describes a student who struggled academically. Ware spent hours tutoring this particular student, helping her grasp the material and develop her writing skills. No matter how much help she received, the ability for her to grow as a student did not appear to be in reach. After she entered the room, she asked, “Mr. Ware?”

Ware responded in an emotionally impatient tone, “Yeah … what is it?”

The next words she spoke would define Ware’s overall experience at RBHS as she said, “I just wanted to give you something that I wrote, and I just wanted to say thank you.”

She handed Ware an essay attached to a scholarship application for a local community college. The full application and essay were tremendous achievements for her caliber of learning.

“Part of the application [was], she had to write an essay [answering], ‘Who has had the greatest impact of your life?’” Ware said, “and it was about me.”

Those words stuck in Ware’s throat as he spoke through each carefully. His eyes grew red once again and only for a moment did he stop to gain composure. To know the impact he caused in a student’s life left him speechless and overwhelmed. The essay meant more than many knew.

“She took the time and worked her butt off to write this essay, something that was really hard for her,” Ware said, “and it was all about how I had changed her life.”

In that moment Ware understood why he made the decision years before during his senior year of high school to become a teacher, why he had taken the chance to do something that made him happy even if sometimes he forgot the true meaning behind the opportunity. He looked upon the situation as a sign to keep teaching no matter what the rest of his career would bring

“That sums up every one of my greatest moments at Rock Bridge: the quiet moments,” Ware said, “the unassuming moments when you realize that you have made a difference for someone.”

Through years of experience here, Ware grew more and more confident in his teaching. Friend, colleague and social studies department chair, David Egan, describes one of his favorite memories of Ware. It was a teacher planning day when all the students had the privilege to stay home and sleep while the teachers collaborated in their departments and created new ideas for future units.

“It started at 8 a.m. and was only suppose to be an hour where we were supposed to, basically, hash out the assessment and the scaffolding of that assessment for what the next unit was going to be,” Egan said. “What was suppose to be an 8-9 a.m. meeting … ended up being until four o’clock that afternoon.”

Social Studies department teachers talked and discussed their plan for 30 minutes before finally deciding that the product lacked essential elements. The department backtracked and started from scratch. From 8 a.m. to four o’clock in the afternoon, the department created a mock-election with heavy help from Ware’s creativity. Starting from scratch and pulling together ideas spat out and left to hang momentarily in the air until grasped by the minds of teachers and placed into the curriculum took place for hours until they reached a final product.

“It was so cool because it was literally this organic creation that was truly collaborative amongst the teachers,” Egan said, “and he sort of led the charge.”

By taking another risk and allowing his talents to shine through, Ware and co-workers developed a new idea and turned it into an over-the-top learning experience.

[wpgmza id=”1″]Ware impacted Egan tremendously throughout their nine years together at RBHS. Egan and Ware took many trips around the world together, learning about new cultures and new perspectives. By welcoming him to international travel, Ware helped Egan expand his views on learning and teaching. More creativity in developing lesson plans and new ways to connect the material to the students’ understanding developed from their travels.

“I’m a different person being friends with him … He introduced me to international travel,” Egan said, “and those experiences, just going out and seeing the world, [have] completely changed my perspective on life, my approaching to teaching, the way I think about instruction and what’s most important in working with students.”

Without Ware, Egan’s small town perspective would probably not have expanded. Egan describes their friendship as never changing, never straying from the quality it holds presently.

“We may not talk for months,” Egan said, “but when we do, it will be like we just talked the day before.”

The ability for Ware and Egan to stay close friends through many situations will be tested when an ocean will separate them for an untold amount of time. With a friend like Egan and the ability to take teaching to a new level, Ware prepares himself for a new uncertainty. Recently accepting a position to teach across the Atlantic Ocean, Ware will live abroad and teach at a highly developed school in England.

The American School in Switzerland (TASIS) England is his destination: an American-style private school located in England and drenched in British ambiance. Thorpe, England, located in Suri, London, lies only 30 minutes from Ware by train. Ware came across the school after the idea of teaching abroad entered his mind. He started researching schools online, getting a feel for offers and opportunities. Finally, TASIS crossed his path and decision time began. Weighing the pros and cons of RBHS to the pros and cons of TASIS England, Ware chose to take the chance and accept a one year contract to  travel, live and teach in Suri. Because Ware loves traveling internationally, he decided going to England is just something that needs to be done. He is ready for new adventure and new experiences in a new country with an untold future.

The opportunity opens more doors to Ware’s travel, with airports and trains at the ready, willing to take him just about anywhere.

“I can have all the benefits of a big city life, literally, within minutes,” Ware said, “but I’m not going to be living in what will feel like the middle of London.”

Even though Ware is used to high-caliber international travel, the small town never really leaves the heart of a true, rural Missourian. The small town “kid” was ready to make yet another leap of faith into the uncertainty.

Comparing the achievement of being hired as a teacher to a prestigious high school in England to his achievement of being accepted to MU and contemplating how those back home would react, Ware takes to humor. He laughs while stating that the people back home would first be excited about his new position all the way across the Atlantic, then they would calm down and realize that because it’s Ware, the outcome seemed obvious from the moment he crossed the threshold of high school graduation and stepped into a college classroom.

“This is a much deeper validation [than] being accepted to MU … I was selected on my virtues of who I am as a teacher and the entirety of my whole 12-year experience at Rock Bridge … I have prepared myself for this experience,” Ware said, “and it’s validation to know that not only am I worthy of teaching at the best school in the state of Missouri … but I am worthy at teaching at this other school that is also at the pinnacle of it’s little niche.”

Ware sat up a little straighter and leaned forward, giving himself entirely to the excitement and understanding of the great fortune in the palm of his hands. His opportunity no longer relied on test scores and activity participation; what gave him the opportunity was his experience and personality. The opportunity applied itself to his life in a much deeper place than numbers and artificial understanding of a person’s individuality. His international travel developed a larger perspective and a willingness for risk.

[pullquote align=”left”]“My mark is going to be more subtle … My mark will exist in the curriculum.”– Dan Ware, history teacher[/pullquote]Taking risks also helped him develop as a teacher and use his creativity to reach the minds of many students, allowing him to collaborate well and giving him more experience out of his 12 years of teaching at RBHS. Taking the plunge into the unknown, Ware chose to accept possibly the biggest venture of his life, and he was welcoming it with a warm heart and open mind. Not only does leaving bring to mind the question of the future, but it also asks what one leaves behind.

Ware laughs when he thinks about how he will leave his mark. He sloughs off the old cliche answer and replaces it with his own.

“My mark is going to be more subtle … My mark will exist in the curriculum,” Ware said. “I doubt that anybody really knows that I was part in the creation.”

From Richland to England, Ware remembers the good and the bad. Years of trial and error helped develop his ability to connect learning and students. Students showed him gratitude through the whole 12 years of his RBHS career and deep friendships developed, reminding him that anything is possible.

For Ware, leaving home once again is difficult, knowing that life will continue on even in his absence. But, the most important thing to remember is life will inevitably go on.

“The only certain thing is that nothing is certain,” Ware said.

By Maribeth Eiken

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3 comments

Teachers say goodbye to Rock Bridge | Bearing News May 25, 2013 at 4:55 pm

[…] BearingNews covered Mr. Ware’s travels in depth here. […]

Reply
Anonymous April 4, 2013 at 1:18 am

Spectacular writing used to describe a spectacular teacher. Mr. Ware is one of those teachers who truly reaches you and forms a bond that goes beyond the normal student-teacher relationship. I know a lot of my friends weren’t ecstatic with him as an AP US teacher – I didn’t have him, so I can’t speak to that. But I most definitely can speak to the impact that he has had on me.

Ware is a quiet leader. He will not gregariously (though he does enjoy talking!) assume command and coarsely direct those around him. Instead, he leads through a curious mix of example and attitude. He’s someone that you want to impress, someone whose praise you value, someone who inspires you and is the goal of your aspirations. Though I’ve had him as a teacher for only one year, I’ve interacted with Ware throughout the three years of my high school career, and it’s honestly quite easy to say that he is one of my favorite teachers. The combination of wit, intelligence, and his unique personality is something that I will remember for quite a long time.

Mr. Ware: You will excel wherever you go. TASIS is lucky to be getting you. RBHS may not be the same without you, but I know that you will go on to do great things. People like you change the world, whether they mean to or not. I would say good luck, but I have a feeling that you will make your own luck in life and succeed wherever you go. So, instead, I’ll simply say this: Rock Bridge was lucky to have you for 12 years, but that time is too long to have kept you to ourselves. Never forget us because I’m sure that we’ll never forget you.

Reply
Alex Burnam April 3, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Spectacular article on the greatest teacher at Rock Bridge.

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