Lisbon High School teacher Dean Hall at this desk recently after starting to pack up his classroom. He is retiring Wednesday after 44 years of teaching, but plans to continue as head track coach. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
LISBON — Eight years after graduating from Lisbon High School, Dean Hall was back as an acting department head and social studies teacher.
A few months into the job, the boys track team needed a coach. The former jumper and hurdler took that on, too.
Forty years later, he is ready to retire from the teaching part. He will still be back next spring to coach.
“The coaching was simply an extension of the classroom,” said Hall, 66. “It’s period nine outside, and it’s the same process: Much like in the classroom, you can improve. There’s some basic things that you have to have. Be willing to work, be willing to be coached and be willing to fail.
“I know every day in the hallways at Lisbon High School there are state champions walking up and down the hallway. They just have to decide when they’re going to (try to become champions).”
Hall grew up in West Durham and left for the University of Maine after graduating from Lisbon High School in 1970. He wanted to do something related to history, maybe museum work. An advisor suggested taking education courses and he liked it.
His first job out of college was at Durham Elementary School. Four years later, in 1978, he was back at his old high school.
“It was interesting because I had to go and deal with some of the teachers that I’d gone to school here with — they’re no longer my teachers, they’re my colleagues, that was kind of a cultural shock,” Hall said.
In the spring of 1979, “they needed a boys coach,” he said. “I was reluctant, but I decided to take a stab.”
The boys and girls track programs merged in 1991 with Hall as the head coach and three assistants, and it’s been “one program, one vision” since.
He has a grandson on the team who will be a junior next year.
“There’s always going to be some other kid you want to see through the program,” Hall said.
Teaching, he said, has brought something exciting everyday. A good friend once told him, “I just want to be amused.”
“That’s what teaching does every day, it keeps you amused,” Hall said. “There’s always the kids you look at and say, ‘some of the funniest people you’ve ever met,’ ‘some of the saddest people.’ There’s probably hundreds of kids I’ll never, ever forget. You watch these kids grow up and they become wonderful people.”
Kids haven’t changed in his 44 years of teaching, he said, but parents have. There’s less parenting, more trying to be a friend, and it hasn’t been for the good.
“They give up too much, they don’t want to be the bad person,” he said.
Being a fan of history and keeping records, he’s kept a file on the school’s history since 1978 that Hall plans to pass on to the next teacher hired in his place. He’s kept highlights of faculty meetings, noted controversies and printed a roster of all the teachers working each year.
“If you don’t remember those, the institutional history disappears,” Hall said. “I want them to know this is a group of people that come and go, but everyday they make magic in the classroom.”
The next history teacher may pass it by, but he hopes they read it.
Twenty years ago, Hall also started a new tradition of giving an honorary cane to the man and woman who’d been teaching the longest at the high school. It’s hung on his classroom wall for 10 years or so.
He’s primarily taught ninth-, eleventh- and twelfth-graders.
“It’s not a job, it’s a career,” he said, “and it’s who you become.”
With his retirement, the school will not be Hall-less: His son, Eric, Lisbon High School Class of 1994, is the athletic director and assistant principal.
Dean and wife, Marie, his high school sweetheart, married 44 years, have two children: Eric and David.
Hall does not have plans for retirement beyond finding something new and continuing to coach.
“I want to go have a September I have not had since I was 6 years old,” he said. “I can watch the yellow bus go by and wave, and just enjoy looking for new adventures.”
Lisbon High School track coach Dean Hall, right, talks with his team in the school gym earlier this season. (Sun Journal file photo)
Lisbon High School teacher Dean Hall sits at this desk at the school recently after starting to pack up his classroom. He is retiring after the school year ends but plans to continue coaching. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)