Daddow leaves behind a true love

Kirk Daddow stumbled into teaching 42 years ago. While he plans to stumble out at the end of the year, Daddow still remembers his first day of teaching class: the incredible feeling of being in a room, in front of students. He recalls coming home to his wife after school that day and telling her that he had just experienced the greatest feeling in the world, and that he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. The clarity with which Mr. Daddow remembers this moment is appropriate, as it marks a time in his life where he discovered his two great loves: teaching and his wife, Jodee. He met her around the same time he decided to go back to school to become a teacher, and credits her for helping him develop his career, and passion. Those years were indispensable to his maturation as a person, and have helped define a teaching style that encourages students to enjoy active learning and pursuit of new knowledge and interests. “I stumbled into my marriage and profession after I dropped out of college,” Daddow said. “Honestly, I don’t know how any of it happened. But together, they have shown me what it takes to be happy in this world. I don’t think I could have done anything else with my life and been successful.” His formula is simple: do something that you know is valuable every day of your life. Daddow said learning this fact is more important than anything he has taught in a classroom. “My fondest memories are when I’m with a class and we connect; both acknowledging that what we’re doing is important. Sometimes I receive letters from students or former students; that sort of thing makes the job worth it, makes life worth it,” Daddow said. He said that some of the most frustrating moments are to see students beat themselves up over grades. “I’ve had kids come to me crying because they got their first Bs,” Daddow said. “It’s so sad because putting that sort of pressure on yourself interferes with learning. Students today have so much more pressure on them and so many more expectations to live up to than when I started teaching. But it’s more important to just relax, learn, and move on. You don’t have to go to Harvard.” Daddow also said that students at Ames High are smarter and more engaged in the classroom than they were 20 years ago, too. Part of this may be due to his level of experience and reputation. “Being a teacher now, there are heightened expectations on you, which is good. It’s especially true when you’ve been at Ames High for almost thirty years. But it’s difficult,” he said. “It’s a tougher job than it used to be.” In addition to being 66 years old, Daddow cites the demands of being an effective teacher as his reason for retiring. “A few years ago I realized that I just wasn’t able to do the job the way it is supposed to be done,” he said. “I want to be able to cover everything in the curriculum, and give students feedback on their writing, which wasn’t happening. I think that if you are in the profession of teaching, and you can’t do it right, you should get out.” While Daddow is convinced that he has made the right decision, he looks forward with humble and human apprehension. He is aware of facing a new stage of his life, and admits that one is never prepared. “I’m scared. Now, I can still go home every night with the warm feeling of someone who knows they have done something good. The most frightening thing is the prospect of not having that.” Such philosophical sincerity is typical of Daddow, who has spent the greater part of his life encouraging students to question and feel. As he stumbles into retirement, one is confident that he will face the next part of life with passion and reverence: the same passion and reverence he has given to Ames High for 29 years.