Longtime Smyrna School District educator and coach Mike Dulin will work his final day at Clayton Elementary Thursday, Oct. 31 as he is retiring after 35 years in the district.
Dulin, who is beloved not only for his work in the classroom but also for his time spent coaching, recently talked with the Sun-Times about his retirement and what he'll miss the most.
Q Why are you retiring?
A The job is very demanding. It takes a lot of hours and there are some other things that I want to do now. I've turned 60 and I just want to do some other things with my life now that I just don't feel that I have the time to do in this job. It's a difficult job; it does take a lot of time so that's sort of why I've decided to step down to be able to do some of the other things now that I enjoy and want do to.
Q What will you miss the most?
A I think the biggest thing I'll miss here at the school are all the hugs from the kids and the smiles, especially from the little kindergarteners and first graders. It's just a great school to be in so that right there is the biggest change that I'm going to miss this most.
Q Will you stay involved in the district?
A This has been the only place, since I became a teacher in 1978, that I've worked. I've told administrators with the Smyrna School District that I will help out in any way that I can. I told Mrs. Wicks and Mr. Williams that if they ever need me to fill in for any time for an administrative role, I'd be glad to. I'm not walking away and saying, 'I'll never come back again.' If I'm needed, I will repay back what the district has done for me for so many years.
Q What are your retirement plans?
A What I miss most of all is coaching; that's what I've done my entire life ever since 1977. I had coached at the high school all the way up to 1998. Of course when you're an administrator you can't do any coaching then because you have to devote all of your time to the position. But there's always been love in my heart for coaching and I would like to be able to get back and help out if I'm fortunate enough, or if anyone wants help I'll be glad to help out.
Q Why did you originally get into education?
A I started out wanting to go into the medical field but I knew financially I wasn't going to be able to do that. I always liked coaching and athletics so I decided to go into physical education and to be a coach. I just like working with kids. I think that's why anyone gets into education to start with and to enjoy the rewards of what you see when kids are learning something whether it's in the classroom or on the athletic field. That pretty much is why I got involved and I have no regrets at all.
Q What have you liked about working in the school district?
A I have been very fortunate in the district to have such wonderful bosses at central office, especially since I've been in administration. Mrs. Wicks, Mr. Lloyd and Mr. Williams have been my bosses at central and I couldn't ask for a better group of people to work with. Mrs. Wicks is an amazing lady. I don't know how she does all the things that she does. I will never say, 'I didn't have time to do that,' because that's not going to fly. When you look at what she does and what she's accomplished, I always knew that, 'I didn't have time to do that,' wasn't an option and I'd need to think of something else. She's been so supportive of everything I've ever done and so has Mr. Willliams and Mr. Lloyd. That means an awful lot to me in administration to have people support you because it's a very tough job.
There are a lot of issues that you face and if you don't have a strong backing from central office, it can be very, very tough. It's always just nice to know that you do have that support, that backing if need be, and if you think you might have made the wrong decision on something, they're not going to crucify you for it; they're going to work with you to get to the right decision. That's the best thing in an administrative role. It's the same as when you're a teacher; to have a principal who is very supportive of what you do. I have been fortunate even as a teacher to have great principals to work under. Larry Dickerson was one of the best principals that I've known and was very fortunate to work with as a physical education teacher under him.
Q Is there anything else you'd like to add?
A You never forget where you got your start and I just want to thank Mr. Eby because he's the one that got me started here. I was working in a car garage in 1977. I had graduated from college and didn't have a job yet, and he came over while I was changing oil in a car and asked me if I'd be interested in being an assistant wresting coach to Mr. Lloyd, which of course was the greatest job in the world to coach wrestling. It was my ticket to get my foot in the door because the next year I was hired as the physical education teacher at North and Clayton Elementary schools. I'll always be indebted having that opportunity to coach. That's where I think I got my start, and of course he was my wrestling coach. I always looked up to him as one of my mentors throughout my entire time. He's always had advice for me even up to the very end with questions or concerns I had. He's a very, very special person to me.
I feel very confident leaving the school with Mrs. Chadwick taking over; that is huge for me. You know we've always had the reputation of being a good school here and that's kind of like the success that wrestling has; you always want to make sure there's someone coming in when someone is going out. I was very fortunate that Mrs. Chadwick was here as an associate principal and they're not going to lose anything with her here; they'll probably make gains with her running the show. I know the staff is excited and I'm excited to be able to walk away with the staff still very happy and not worry. The students will be very happy and I won't have to worry. I can walk away feeling very good that the school is in good hands.
Having the great relationship with secretaries; they've been fantastic to work with. If you don't have great secretaries to work with, it can be very, very difficult. It can be very difficult. Brenda is excellent with the school registration and Robin is fantastic with the financial side. They have made my life so comfortable here with the things they do and those are things going out you don't take for granted. The little things people don't know about, if I took it for granted my stress level…I'd need blood pressure medication right now if not for the two of them. I just want to praise them for all the work they've done while I've been in this position here.
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.