Kate Merritt, Director of Alumni Programs at Shorecrest, sat down with beloved coach and teacher Dave Field before his recent retirement to reflect on his years at Shorecrest.
How did you wind up teaching at Shorecrest?
I started out college wanting to be a physical education teacher. I had to switch colleges and my new college didn't have physical education as a major, so I had to change majors. I felt my next strongest area was math, so I pursued that and then I volunteered to coach. That's how I became a math teacher.
I was born and raised in Massachusetts, and was teaching at a little school in North Adams, Massachusetts. They told me that the last hired was the first fired, and sure enough after two years, they had budget cutbacks due to the declining population of the town and cut about 25 teaching positions. I was one of them.
While working at a camp in that part of the country over the summer I saw a notice about a job available at Shorecrest Prep. in Forida. I thought, "Well, I might as well apply." My oldest son was having ear infections all winter, so we thought maybe a warmer climate would be better for him. I threw my application in the ring and low and behold, I got a notice from Bruce Haskell that he wanted me to come down and have an interview. I accepted the job, and my wife (who was 8.5 months pregnant) and I sold most of our belongings and hopped on a plane and moved down. And here I've been for 35 years.
What's kept you here all these years?
I've always loved the close knit community. I'm a small town person—a small community person. I love places where everyone knows each other and everyone helps each other out—and that's the way Shorecrest was back then.
I loved working with the people I was working with. People ate lunch together, they talked to one another, and they helped each other. When someone needed a fence put up in his yard, a bunch of faculty would go over and help put up the fence.
I've just loved Shorecrest. It's my home. It really is. And I've had some fantastic years here.
Have there been any moments for you as a teacher that have really inspired you or stuck in your mind?
Thousands! One era of excitement was when my middle son, Matt was here. I never had him in class, but I coached him in football, and that was just fantastic for me to be able to do that. The thing that I cherish the most was when he was a little tyke and used to be the ball boy for the football team. We would go to these away games, and Shorecrest always played these teams on the other side of the state. We'd get on a bus on Friday in the early afternoon and we'd just throw the ball around when we got there and then on the way back he'd fall asleep. When we got back to school, the players would all get off the bus, I'd get all the equipment off the bus, and then finally I'd scoop him up and carry him off.
But really, there are so many wonderful memories. And most of my memories are not of events, but of students. Students that I still have a connection with over the years.
I had a student who was really quiet in class. She didn't talk much, and I didn't feel I had a particular connection with her, but 10 years or so after graduation I got a phone call out of the blue, "Mr. Field I just wanted to let you know that I'm a teacher and that you were the one who inspired me to be a teacher." I've had a couple of those, and that's just an amazing feeling.
Why do you think so many students have had such a strong response to your class?
I'm demanding. I really believe that students rise to the level of expectations. And I've found that to be true. Even if I don't think I'm getting through, sometimes it happens.
I have on my board a list of things that I really am teaching: persistence, responsibility, hard work, effort. Those are the things that are going to make you a successful person. It's not the math. Anybody can teach math, anyone can learn math—you can do it online. But it's those other qualities that I think are really important.
What are you going to miss the most?
The time with the students. Absolutely. The time with the students. It's so exciting watching them be successful. I have a student this year who did not do well in geometry first quarter, second quarter, or third quarter. Then all of a sudden this last quarter he gets it… and in the final quarter he got a 95% average grade, which means that all that effort and work came out in his tests and quizzes. And that is so exciting to watch a student to go from there to here. To see that improvement is just wonderful.
What are you doing once you retire?
We have a home in North Carolina. I'm from New England and my wife is from Florida. So North Carolina is a great halfway point. We have a little cabin-style house that's going to be just right for us in retirement. It's right on a nice creek. It's a small community where everyone knows one another. My neighbor is a farmer and I help in the summer with his haying and his chickens. And my wife and I are planning on enjoying that property and gardening, and we're also going to be doing some traveling in the United States to see the 11 grandchildren who are spread all over the place.
We just bought a small one-sided pop-up camper that's very lightweight, that I can pull with my SUV. Our first trip is at the end of August when we'll drive out to Denver, Colorado, to see some family. And then in the middle of October we'll drive to New England to see some of the fall leaves. Then we'll come down here to Florida around Christmas time.
Is there anything you'd like to say to Shorecrest alumni?
Keep in touch! I enjoy seeing alumni, I love connecting on Facebook, and I love reading about them in the Alumni magazine. Seeing those names brings back great memories! I'm excited to have a little more time to respond back to people now that I'm not grading papers!
Thanks David, for all your years of service to our school! You will be missed!
If you'd like to connect with Dave, you can do so on Facebook by searching for "David Field."