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Full-Throttle Ahead After 35 Years of Teaching

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August 30, 2010 by wcobserver

By Susan McCarthy

He has spent over half his lifetime teaching science; nearly half his lifetime driving a school bus.  And 43 years married to his wife Rita, who happens to be a graduate of Greenland High School.  Guy Boydstun, or Mr. Boydstun, to at least two generations of students will celebrate 35 years with the Greenland School District this December.

He came to the school district, fresh out of school from the University of Central Arkansas in January 1976.

“I was the science department,” he says of his early days in Greenland.  “I taught seven periods, six classes.  That was quite a first year.”

Over the years, the science department has expanded to three teachers, but Boydstun still chooses to teach five different classes; this year he will teach chemistry, physics, Pre-AP Chemistry, AP Chemistry and adds two environmental science classes.

“It’s not a workload anymore.  It’s really not.  It’s about the kids,” he said.  “I like the variety.  I could have left a long time ago, but I like the variety.  I don’t want to teach one thing all day.”

Boydstun, now 63, is one who can’t sit still for long.  He says he likes to be up and moving around the room.  He says his students can count on not knowing what’s coming next.  A darkened spot along the ceiling reveals evidence of a lab that was designed to create a fireball.

“I use firecrackers in chemistry to teach balancing equations,” Boydstun said.  “It gets them interested.  Keep it interesting and it keeps them learning; they don’t mind being tested over it.”

In a school auditorium full of teachers, staff, and prospective school board members on Monday, Boydstun points out at least seven former students including the school’s transportation supervisor, Kevin Dickard and Pat Anderson and James Miller, who are running for school board.  Kristi Bowerman, who is the high school’s new math teacher, is also a former student.

Anderson, now 41, recalls knowing Boydstun as early as second grade when he used to ride Boydstun’s school bus along the Mineral Springs route.  He also took three of Boydstun’s science classes and graduated with Boydstun’s oldest son.  In the auditorium on Monday, Dr. Cudney, Greenland’s new superintendent, asked his staff to close their eyes and recall a teacher that made a difference in their lives.

“He was the first to come to my mind; he stood out,” said Anderson.

“He’d tell you, ’you’re doing good, but you can do better; ’ at the time I didn’t appreciate it,” Anderson said.  “He held you to pretty high standards.”

“He expected you to study and learn the material and it didn’t make any difference if there was a basketball or football game that night.  You were still expected to get your stuff done,” he added. “He was fair and consistent.”

Staff Photographer Brooke McNeely Galligan All-around science teacher Guy Boydstun goes through his filing cabinet full of every student he has ever taught in Greenland High School Monday while setting up his classroom for his 35th year of teaching. Boydstun is teaching five different science classes this year.

Asked if he can remember how many students he’s taught over the years, Boydstun smiles and says, “I know exactly how many students I’ve taught.”

He walks to open a tall gray filing cabinet at the back of his classroom; he has six of them full of files of former students.  Every student he has ever taught has a file; they are all neat and filed alphabetically with hand-written names across each.  The files contain attendance records, a record of which class each student took and their grades.

Boydstun said the files have come in handy when he’s been asked to write letters of recommendations or to assist in military background checks when former students are being considered for security clearances.

James Miller is another former student who is among the names in the filing cabinet.  Miller’s kids are in there too.

“He brought lots of enthusiasm to science; he was always up,” Miller said.  “He was a good guy, a great teacher.”

“He had a lot of jokes; he always liked telling jokes, corny ones, really,” Miller said.

Miller recalls that when Boydstun, who wears glasses, stood at the front of the room, he tilted his head slightly up, and light was reflected on his glasses  “just the right way.”

“You couldn’t tell where he was looking…or whether he was looking at you,” Miller said.

Boydstun says he likes to keep students guessing.  “I think everyone can learn science.  That’s how I approach it.”

A couple of months into the school year, Boydstun begins to challenge his students to create their own solutions in inquiry-type labs; for example, he might challenge students to create a pendulum to test various principles.

“Science is not teaching science, it’s facilitating science,” says Boydstun.  He says he likes to use what he calls table science.  “If I can see they have it, we move on.  If you see a mistake, you can correct it right then.”

Reflecting back on nearly 35 years, Boydstun says the biggest changes have come in technology.

“I still have an OTI-30 calculator form college.  A 99 cent calculator from Wal-Mart can do more.  I paid $200-$300 for mine.”

Boydstun says he’s been a lifelong learner and that’s one of the reasons he likes a variety of classes.  He reads a lot outside of school, some of it for pleasure though he doesn’t care for science fiction.  He spent part of his summer this year at a conference in Dallas.

In his spare time, he teaches an adult Sunday school class.  He was also a charter member of the West Fork VFW and has been a member (and often an officer) since 1989.  He also maintains cattle on his farm in West Fork, and was on his way to brush-hog Monday afternoon.

“I like to play with the grand-kids.  I think family is a whole lot of life,” he said.  All three of his sons are Greenland High School graduates and one of their sons is a Greenland student now.

“My roots are here; they really are,” Boydstun said.

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