Dieringer M.S. Teacher/Coach and Dieringer Substitute Teacher 1980-2014
Dieringer Education Foundation Hall of Fame
Quentin Clark’s journey through life began 90 years ago with his birth in the town of Tekoa, Washington, on October 29, 1927. He remembers how exciting it was to begin life in a small community in the heart of the Palouse hills of Eastern Washington. These early years are memorable for many events that influenced his later years as a teacher, husband, and father. He recalled how, during the Great Depression, homeless, hungry men out of work were never turned away when they sought work for a bit to eat at the Clark home. He watched with wonder when his father, a veterinarian, operated on dogs and cats on the kitchen table. The golden, flowing wheat fields, harvest time, eating in the cookshack with the dust-covered harvest crew, and watching the shocks of wheat being fed into the stationary thrashing machine that spit out the golden kernels into a big sack, sewn shut by the flashing needle of the sack-sewer were just a few of his early memories.
Quentin began his first day of school in September 1933 in a building that is still in use this very day, and like the old Dieringer Middle School, is on the National Historical Register. It is interesting to note that Quentin began his life-long journey as a student and later as a teacher in historical buildings.
At the age of seven, at the height of the Great Depression, Quentin’s dad was employed by the State of Washington on special assignment that took the family to various communities in Eastern Washington, ending in the Spokane Valley. He recalls spending four months in Bluestem, Washington, where he, his sister and brother were enrolled in a one-room school during the winter of 1935-36. He recalls being the only kid in fourth grade, how cold it was to use the two-holed outhouse, and how the teacher spent much of her time next to the pot-belly stove. No recess, no P.E., no art, music, or friends.
Upon moving to the Spokane Valley in the spring of 1936, Quentin began a long association with the Central Valley School District as a student and later as a teacher.
Growing up on the Clark’s 20-acre farm, Quentin was enrolled in the Opportunity Grade School where he had modest academic success but excelled at marbles, tennis and basketball. Built in the late teens or early twenties, that old school featured a swimming pool but no gym. After the luster of a swimming pool began to fade, especially in winter, someone converted the pool to a gym. Quentin remembers that you didn’t care that the floor was concrete with a slight dip at either end where the water ran out. He recalls that it was always cold in that gym, since the radiators were attached to the ceiling right above the baskets. As difficult as it was to play games against other teams in that five-lane wide concrete gym, four life-long friends and classmates that began their association with the sport of basketball as players there. Several years served as coaches at the college level. Quentin is one of the four. He has often stated that humble beginnings are no deterrent to desire and ambition.
Upon leaving high school where he earned letters in three sports and served as student body president, Quentin was recruited by Eastern Washington College, now Eastern Washington University, to play basketball. He became a starter on a team that ended the season in Kansas City. Playing on a basketball team at the national level was a highlight of his athletic adventure. Eastern won two but was sent home after being defeated by Pepperdine.
Arriving home from Kansas City, Quentin received a greeting from an Uncle…Uncle Sam. Leaving home, school, friends, especially a beautiful co-ed by the name of Molly Wagner, Quentin joined the U.S. Navy where he served for two years, most of it at the Bremerton Naval Base. Frequent trips home kept him in contact with Molly, who welcomed his visits, and became his wife 69 years ago.
Upon leaving Eastern with his wife and new baby daughter, Quentin returned to Central Valley where he taught sixth grade for two years. Leaving Central Valley, he moved to the Palouse County, where he began his work for a master’s degree at Washington State University. Teaching sixteen fourth graders in Oakesdale was a dream job but lasted one year. He was recruited by the Superintendent of St. John to become the grade school principal, full time 8th grade teacher of all subjects, art teacher, basketball coach, water safety instructor of the district, swimming pool manager and bus driver for a morning and after-school run for one full year. Now the father of three daughters, he moved his family to Bellevue where he taught a combination of 2nd and 3rd grade students at Eastgate Elementary. Quentin then became a remedial consultant, followed by five years as principal of Ashwood Elementary in the Bellevue School District.
Moving on to a new adventure, Quentin joined a new publishing company, Science Research Associates (S.R.A.). He served that company for eight years as a representative and consultant to countless school districts in the Northwest and Alaska. Another three years were devoted to help give birth to a new company, Educational Publishing Corporation (E.P.C), serving the Northwest and Alaska.
A serious back injury sustained while spending a week in a remote Eskimo village learning about education in the bush schools terminated his traveling experiences. He returned to teaching as the Director of Special Services in East Pierce County. Implementing the 1973 federal law that required all of the nation’s public schools to provide appropriate services to all special needs children, Quentin worked with superintendents, principals, classroom teachers, special education teachers, psychologists, nurses, speech therapists and others to ensure that every child with special needs were receiving an education that met those needs. The Dieringer School District was one of the five districts that he served.
After seven years as Director of Special Services in East Pierce County, Quentin requested a reassignment as a classroom teacher in the Dieringer School District, where Molly had been on staff as a teacher for several years. From 1980 to 1988, he served on the faculty of the Middle School as teacher and coach of the girls’ slow-pitch team. Over the course of three years, the girls set a win record that will never be broken- 25 consecutive wins. In 1992, with the opening of the North Tapps Middle School, slow-pitch became a game of the past as it was replaced by fast-pitch softball. “Never again will one hear the crack of the bat as our players hit a home run or the toot of the train’s horn as the old work trains rolled by.”
Working with a great staff at the middle school for eight years, Quentin chose to retire in 1988. Molly joined him and the two set sail for parts unknown, athough the known part was their desire to substitute teach for a few years. Molly lasted for eight years, but Quentin threw in the towel after 26 years- at the age of 86.
Quentin remembers on his 70th birthday, how the students assembled in the gym and surprised him with “Happy Birthday, Mr. Clark.” They gave him a NTMS baseball cap, which he proudly wears to this day.
Still substitute teaching on his 75th birthday, the students presented him with a fancy gym outfit-pants and jacket. It became his standard wear during PE classes.
On his 80th birthday and his 85th, nothing! No cards, gifts, cheers or “Happy Birthdays.” He concluded that students gave up on him ever quitting and didn’t want to encourage him to hang around any longer.
In his own words, Quentin looks back on his 41 years of association with the children, teachers, staff and administrators of the Dieringer School District as the best of the best in his long association with the teaching profession.
Slowing down from the aging process and losing ground to all the technological advancements happening in our schools, he admitted to the students that they were outdoing him in their technological growth. But he explained, “I’m way ahead of you in one area.”
“What would that be?” one student asked.
“Wisdom,” he replied.
And the students were greatly satisfied with his answer.