Why I Teach
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Why We Teach

Ashley Bishop
Ashley Bishop

Michelle Skidmore
Michelle Skidmore

Steve Datolla
Dave Datolla

Wendell Crow
Wendell Crow

Belinda Karge
David Pagni
Nancy Segal

Alumni Responses:
Letters from teachers

Dave Datolla

Why We Teach:

Dave Datolla

David Dattola has an original way of explaining geometry to his fourth-grade students at Nelson Elementary School in Tustin. “Pretend the triangle is the location of the crime,” he tells them, “and we want to measure the perimeter of the crime scene.” He finds the students are much more interested in the math exercise and, not surprisingly, so is he. Together they find the answer, determining the perimeter – and where the suspect has breached the scene.

The math exercise is just one way that Dattola alters lesson plans to accommodate his unusual background into the curriculum. He was a 20-year veteran of the South Gate Police Department prior to retiring with a job-related injury and deciding, of all things, to attend Cal State Fullerton to become a schoolteacher.

His decision was easy – he'd always wanted to teach. In addition to his detective work and record-breaking narcotics busts, his efforts for the force often involved training other officers or working in classrooms performing community-oriented police work. “I'm lucky that I'm able to have two public-service careers. It's an honor to do these two jobs and hopefully I'll have a positive effect in both of them.”

In considering the results of his first year, Dattola finds his new career rewarding. “I walk into the classroom each morning knowing I have the power to change kids for the better,” he says. “They're happy to be there. They grow academically, in maturity, their ability to solve problems, in their ability to get along with one another.”

Dattola values the experiences he had in the teaching program. “Cal State Fullerton prepared me for the classroom, and I am enjoying my new life,” he says. “I know that I am doing good things for my students. I am learning so much from them every day.”

Like most of the teachers interviewed for this story, Dattola believes his work is more than a job. “I am a believer in the power of education to change lives,” agrees Leslie Blesener '72 (B.A. English). “An excellent education improves lives by opening the heart and liberating the mind, and I endeavor to do that daily.” Blesener teaches at John Glenn High in Norwalk.

“I feel I am making a difference in the lives of these young people by building self-confidence through theatre,” writes Autumn Browne –75 (B.A. theater), who teaches drama at Brookhurst Junior High School in Anaheim.

“There's never a boring day in the teaching field,” writes Susana Prado –02 (B.S. child and adolescent studies), a third-grade teacher at Faylane Elementary in the Garden Grove Unified School District. “What keeps me going are my students, who have so much to share with one another.”

Why We Teach: Wendell Crow »