Guy Doud spent the majority of his childhood and teen years battling problems with his weight and low self esteem, but through the influence of teachers who believed in him, Guy learned to overcome these challenges and committed his life to motivate high school students to pursue excellence. Chosen from more than two million public school teachers, Guy Doud stepped to national prominence when President Ronald Reagan honored him with America’s 1986 Teacher of the Year Award.
Since then, this language arts teacher from Minnesota has been key note speaker for many education groups and thousand of school districts across the United States. Guy will make you laugh and Guy will inspire you but he will also cause you to think about your life, your direction, and your relationship to God. Here’s Guy Doud to share his story.
I appreciate it when introductions are kept simple, cause sometimes the person that’s introducing you feels the need to try to establish your credibility. Make you sound like you’re somebody really important, somebody really worth listening to. I realize just how important I am when, once a day as a school teacher, I’m scheduled to stand in the toilet. In fact, when I had a chance to address the college of education from which I graduated, I told my education profs that they really hadn’t done a very good job teaching me to be a teacher because I’d never been taught how to conduct lavoratory duty. My principal says, “Well, make yourself clearly visible.” It isn’t that difficult. I’m the only one with a suit on in the toilet. Tell you the truth, I always feel kind a like a pervert standing in the toilet. The kids come in and saunter up to the urinal and there I am, “clearly visible”. They look over at me,”How’re ya doin’ Mr. Doud? Did you…” “You just watch your aim, there!” You know…but anyway, I’m a professional.
If I had any claim to fame at all it’s the fact that I used to weigh 327 lbs. I was fat. In fact my fat had fat. I was getting ready to start my second year as a teacher and it was going to be the very first day of teacher workshop. The night before went out to my favorite spot, Taco Town. I had a full order of spaghetti, a half a chicken, and a small pizza as was my nightly habit. And on my way home three scoops of butter brickle icecream was also part of my nightly habit. I was leaving Taco Town when into the restaurant came this very attractive girl, beautiful She’d been my student and had graduated the previous May. We ran into each other, literally. There wasn’t room for both of us in the door She kind of bonged it off of me. She said, “Oh, Mr Doud!” Now I always get very nervous around pretty girls. I’m shy. I really am. She looked at me and she said, “Mr Doud, are you still teaching?” I said, “Yeah, Julie, I’m just getting ready to start my second year. ” You know all kids think that teachers are ancient. Then we have the kid’s kids, “Is he still teaching?” And then she looked at me, she said, “Well, Mr Doud, are you married yet?” I said, “No, Julie, I’m not. I’m not married yet. ” She looked me over from head to toe and she said, “Well, you know, Mr Doud, you’d be kind of cute if you lost a hundred pounds. ” Kind of cute? Why bother! Who wants to go through the agony of losing a hundred pounds and be kind of cute? So I went home and had 5 scoops of butter brickle. I got up the next morning and turned the Today show. Dr Arkolein was on with a diet for the extremely obese. I wrote it down and started dieting that day. Lost a hundred and twenty seven pounds and I’ve kept it off for 15 years now.
After I lost all that weight, I noticed that girls started looking at me a little differently. Possibly because I started looking at them a little differently. I thought, you know, I’ve lost over a hundred, must be kind of cute. Well I finally started going out with this one girl after she asked me out four times. After we went together three and half years, I finally got up enough courage to ask her to marry me. I thought she was going to reject me. Once we decided to get married, I thought our parents should meet each other to approve of our upcoming nuptials. Well, my father was widowed, her mom was divorced. I invited my dad and her mom to my house and, gals, I made the roast beef, potato, carrots, and gravy dinner and my girlfriend brought a pie.
Our parents hit it off, unbelievably well. Tammy and I were married in June of 1980 and our folks were married in August of 1980. If you think about that for a minute, that made my father my father in law, my mother in law is my stepmother, my wife is my stepsister, together we have four children, three boys and a girl, three nephews and a niece and it’s all legitimate!
It’s been an interesting journey the last few years. I remember that first night that I was here and I looked up at the banner, Love and Dignity and Respect, and I talked that first time about how, really, my philosophy as a teacher was the golden rule. That whatsoever you would that others would do unto you do to them. Treat other people the way you would like to be treated. I see these kids, hundred and fifty of them that walk through the classroom doors in to my room and I believe that everyone of them is an individual. I have a personal belief that everyone of them has a eternal destiny. I believe that everyone of them has a soul and I care very, very much about those kids.
It absolutely grieves me to know that suicide is becoming the leading killer of our young people today. Every 30 seconds a teenager attempts suicide. Every 70 minutes they succeed. It grieves me. Little kids having kids. Adolescent pregnancy. I remember that first night just sharing some of the experiences that I had as a teacher and now here it is a few years later and here I am back again. There’s another chapter to the story.
Tonight I really want to talk about getting back to the real basics. The last few years I’ve traveled and people have come up to me and they say, “Mr Doud, what do you think about teacher competency testing? What do you think about the voucher system? Isn’t it a tragedy that there are kids in our schools today that graduate and they receive a diploma and don’t know how to read?” I say, “You bet, that’s a tragedy, it’s appalling ” But an even greater tragedy is the fact that we are graduating hundreds and thousands and millions of kids from our schools who don’t know how to live. Who don’t have a life purpose. Who come from non stable homes, homes where they’ve never known security. Homes from where they’ve never been given the gift of self worth, the gift of example, the gift of faith. They learn survival skills and then they reach middle age and the foundation on which their life is built begins to crumble They search for answers. Some become alcoholics, some become drug addicts, some become sexaholics, some become addicted to gambling, some become addicted to work, some become addicted to money.
The University of Southern California has been polling kids for twenty some years asking how important is it for you to have a life purpose. Back in the sixties over 85% of the kids said it’s extremely important for me to have a purpose for life. Kids polled today asked how important is it for you to have a life purpose. Less than 50% indicate it’s important to have a life purpose. Que sera sera, what ever will be will be. We talk about the value of a person, the value of people at home, the value in the workplace, but I don’t think we can really value anyone either place until we have a value of ourselves, of who we are and what we’re called for and what we are doing here.
I’ll never forget one of my first experiences in college. I was in a play called “Our Town” and I had the marvelous opportunity to play the part of the stage manager who opens up each act and closes each act. The play “Our Town” traces George Gibbs and Emily Webb from their childhood through their adulthood to their marriage. The third act begins with the stage manager coming out on stage and saying, “This is an interesting place here in Grover’s Corner” and here are all these people sitting on the stage in chairs. Their faces made up and they’re just sitting there and he said, “Yeah, it’s quiet up here. ” And then in the background you hear the music, “Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.” The stage manager turns around and says, “Yeah, it’s a sad day here in Grover’s Corner “.
Out of two of the people sitting in the chairs, one of them says, “Who is it?” She says,” It’s Emily, my daughter in law died in childbirth. Childbirth, I’d forgotten about that how awful life is and wonderful. ” And pretty soon the funeral procession makes its way up to the cemetery and here comes Emily Webb Gibbs and she steps out of the group and she looks at the dead people and she looks at the mourners and she feels herself pulled between the two groups and she says to the stage manager, “If I want to, I can go back, can’t I? I can go back and live my life over again, can’t I?” and the stage manager says, ” Well you can go back and watch yourself live but you don’t want to. It’s going to be too painful for you ” She said, “No, I want to go back and live and relive the day that I first met and knew that I loved George. ” And the stage manager says, “No, Emily, if you go back, pick an unimportant day, an insignificant day, that will be important enough.” So Emily says, “I want to go back and relive my twelfth birthday “.
And so by the miracle of theatre, all of a sudden, the stage is transformed and here’s Emily a little schoolgirl, and here she is coming down for breakfast. It’s her twelfth birthday and here’s her mother in the kitchen and here her father comes downstairs and he grabs his morning paper and holds it up and starts reading it. Her mother’s running around the kitchen getting breakfast ready. “Sit down, dear, eat your breakfast Happy Birthday. ” Her father puts down his newspaper and says, “Happy Birthday, dear .” Then up goes the newspaper.
Emily is just standing there. She says, “Mom, will you slow down a minute and look at me? Dad will you put down that newspaper and look at me? I’m dead, I’m dead. ” But her parents keep rushing around the kitchen. “Sit down dear, eat your bacon. Chew it good .” Emily can’t take it anymore so she runs outside and all of a sudden, “Look at that butternut tree? I never realized how beautiful it was. How gorgeous it was. Look at the flowers. Look at the white picket fence.” And then she turns to the stage manager and she asks, “Does anybody realize the beauty of life while they’re living?” He says, “No. Saints and poets, maybe, they do some. ” And she turns to the stage manager and says, “Take me back. Life is just to painful, take me back “.