We invite you to share your own memories at stories@tomdoelgerspeaks.com

Martha Brockenbrough ‘88

I have come to think of my adolescent brain as a war zone strafed by the bullets of self-doubt, bombed by stealth hormone attacks, a condition only made worse by lingering photographic evidence that it was, indeed, a very bad hair decade.

It's no wonder that precious few specific memories survive. Memories of Tom Doelger are among the most resilient monuments that remain -- the sound of his voice, the stars of light in his spectacles, even the very phrases he used to pierce the darkness of those often difficult days.

"When I sprang from my mother's loins…"
Loins? A teacher can say that? Interesting…
"Proceeded to. Don't use that phrase. It's flabby."
Consider it stricken from my vocabulary.
"Wub-wuff. Wub-wuff. Is there any more perfect way to describe the sound of a swinging chapel door?"
I did not know, but have listened to doors of all sorts ever since, storing memories of sounds like small pearls in my mind.
"Have faith," he told us. "In what? That, of course, is your freedom, your privilege, your responsibility, your adventure to discover."
You mean I can find my own meaning in this world, armed with confidence that I will find something other than darkness?
With words like these, Mr. Doelger ushered us off to our futures, arming us with courage, prudence, attentiveness, and hope. He has also stayed with us as a friend, dancing at our weddings, holding our babies, comforting us in times of grief.
All lives should be illuminated with such light. I'm deeply grateful to have had the privilege.

Julie Featherstone Leung ‘88

Epiphany. I hear the word and I am sixteen, sitting in the corner of Mr. Doelger’s World Literature classroom. His assignment: to share an example of epiphany from our lives. Mr. Doelger began with his tale of desire and disappointment featuring an Alpha Romeo Spider. Telling sports car stories seemed too fun and frivolous for World Literature and his affection for automobiles mystified me. However, through Mr. Doelger’s saga and all our shared stories, I saw how literature can live. How epiphany is ever-present. And how teaching can create community. These longings of Ivan Denisovich and of Dubliners were stories we could live. We were connected to Russians, to Irish across ocean, across time. We, teenagers and adult alike, connected to each other across this classroom on a sunny spring afternoon. Although I had never driven an Alfa Romeo Spider, I knew desire. I knew disappointment. Twenty years later, I still hunger. What I long to grasp and possess often eludes me, leaving me with a lesson, leaving me with a story to share, an epiphany present, a gift from Mr. Doelger.

“He listens.” I wrote in my journal on December 31, 1987, describing why I continued to visit Mr. Doelger even though World Literature class had ended and he was no longer my teacher. He listens indeed. For twenty years, my former teacher has listened to me, reading letters and short stories, sharing conversation over occasional visits, even listening to my children, and always encouraging me in my writing. I am amazed by this man who cares not only for language and literature but also for students and for the people they become, long after any classroom obligation has ended. 

My sixteen year old self put secrets on paper, scribbling stories I had never shared. Mr. Doelger gave me courage in writing and in life. Through humor and humility, trust and respect, he creates a cocoon for the fragile adolescent and a safety net for the nervous writer. 

When someone listens, with intensity and delight, you hunger to hear what he has to say. We were a rapt audience for our English teacher. My graduating class also was eager to listen to Mr. Doelger, selecting him as our baccalaureate speaker, as many other classes have since. Greedy for his insight, I glean from our conversations and correspondence whatever wisdom I find. 

I am challenged, as a mother, as a teacher, as a wife, as a friend, to be as zealous in listening, as generous in giving as Mr. Doelger has demonstrated to me through two decades.

Mr Doelger believes in epiphany, a word we learned in World Literature. He lives life ready to receive revelation, and share it with others, wherever he finds it in the world, whether it comes from the glory of nature in mountains and ocean, from excellent literature, or from the quiet voice of an adolescent in his class. 

Munro Galloway ’89

After Lakeside, when I came back to visit with Tom Doelger, it was usually to go for a run. Running with Doelger is not so different from reading a novel in his Junior-year English class. It starts off at gentle pace, nothing too challenging. But soon you're turning off the well-traveled road and into rougher terrain. The trees close in, the trail becomes faint. You realize you're getting a little lost. There's no way to get your bearings, no way of knowing what lies ahead. Still, Doelger presses on, and you follow through a strange, unfamiliar landscape. It's more exhilarating than frightening, not knowing where you'll end up. After several more twists and turns you suddenly find yourself back on the main road. It's not really a run if your don't get mud on your shoes.

Cameron Pelly ’89

I consider myself extremely lucky to call Mr. Doelger my teacher, my mentor, and my very good friend.  When I think of early memories of Mr. Doelger, there is one moment that stands out clearly above the rest.  Mr. Doelger had been working with our class to use sentence patterns as a tool to tighten, brighten, and sharpen our descriptive writing skills.  The students were all seated and ready for class to begin, all of us puzzling about the length of twine strewn diagonally across the room from the upper corners.  Suddenly, Mr. Doelger bound into the room from his office and leapt onto the desk like a cat, where he crouched down in a tight, low position, hiding an object in his arms and grinning maniacally at the class, leering from side to side.  He then proudly raised that object for all to see, like an athlete raising the Olympic Torch, and placed said object on the twine in the corner of the room.  Ernst, the unicycling bear had made his grand debut.  For the next 60 seconds Mr. Doelger raised and lowered the twine in one corner of the room, and Ernst dutifully unicycled back-and-forth across the room, bobbing rhythmically from side-to-side with his tiny legs attached to the single wheel and pumping furiously.  Mr. Doelger then abruptly snatched the bear out of the air and disappeared into his office in a flash.  After a moment he calmly re-entered the room and uttered his first words of the morning, "with pencil and paper, please spend the next 10 minutes describing in detail what you just saw."  Mr. Doelger, and Ernst, I am forever grateful for that memory.

Molly Joondeph Rubin '90

When Mr. Doelger was in the classroom, we all knew there was no place he would rather be. He seemed to give everything to his teaching, and his gift was to make each of us feel special. His persistent belief in me motivated me in ways that I had never experienced before. Because of him, I wanted to be a better writer and a better person. In the end, he did teach me how to write. More important, he taught me how to be honest, thoughtful, dedicated, and a true friend.

Fred Northup, Jr. ‘91

Mr. Doelger was my advisor for all my years at Lakeside, and my days were typically bookended by visits with him. Advisor group in the morning was a fun time to connect with fellow students, but it was meeting up with him one-on-one in the afternoon that meant so much to me. He is such an incredibly wise man, and with solid advice on everything from buying new skis to new tires.

The best thing about visiting Mr. Doelger's house is witnessing the surprising - some may say shocking - number of cars parked out front. New and old, big and small, and invariably outnumbering the amount of people in the Doelger family. But it's this love of cars that makes Mr. Doelger's house the first stop I take on the way home from the car lot.

You can't speak about Mr. Doelger without speaking of his lovely wife. She's always as gracious in accepting visiting students as he is, quick to make a cup of tea and to make sure you're situated on a comfortable couch. Together, they settle you down in their wonderful sun room and make you feel like you're the most important person in the world.

I loved stopping by Mr. Doelger's office at lunch time. How one man can pile that many carrots on top of a salad is beyond me. If you want to print a letter of thanks in this book, you should print one from the carrot farmers of America.

One of the most touching memories I have of Mr. Doelger is what he wrote in my yearbook when I graduated in 1991: "I consider you a friend as well as a student and advisee. That's my highest praise." Having looked up to him for years, to transition into friendship with Mr. Doelger was as powerful and meaningful a milestone in my life as my actual graduation.

Ali Stewart-Ito '93

Tom is a storyteller who weaves words with such intricacy the listener is unaware that they have been immobilized by a gigantic blanket.  We may struggle to return to reality for a moment, but the words are too strong, too carefully chosen, and we must resign, listen and enjoy. Tom has been a life teacher and friend who somehow manages to make each and every person he encounters feel like they are the most important person in the world.

Evelyn Spence ’94

Every time I return to Seattle—first from Massachusetts, then from London or San Francisco or Boulder, now from Brooklyn—there are constants. I always meet up with my friend and former classmate Stephanie. And then Stephanie and I always get strong coffee at Zoka with Mr. Doelger. To me, he’ll always be a Mister, never a Tom: Reverence for teachers, especially transcendent teachers, dies sweetly hard. Even if I haven’t communicated with him in a year, which is often the case in the silly hyperspeed of our lives, TD leaps right over the slight bumblings of small talk (
How’s life? How’s, like, X, Y, and Z?) and gets to the important, the slippery, the real, stuff: “Are humans fundamentally good or evil?” he asks. “Why faith? Why do you—or do you not—believe in God?” Not just a cup of coffee, this. We get down to it. It’s exactly like it was in the classroom fifteen years ago—there’s a contagious sense of constant inquiry, a striving honesty, a demanding generosity, to this man. Quite simply, he was—and is—my kind of teen idol. I think of Mr. Doelger as an enabler: He made me codependent on books and language. He encouraged me to write, to think. And he continues to allow me epiphanies like the one I had in 10th-grade English: “Free-will,” wrote William Golding in Free Fall, “cannot be debated but only experienced, like colour or the taste of potatoes.” Sounds sort of like the teacher himself—a certain greatness that is indisputable, and frankly inexplicable, but everyone knows exactly what it is.

Stephanie Saad ’94

For years, season after season, whenever Evelyn is home (from San Francisco, from Boulder, from New York) we meet Tom Doelger at Café Zoka in Wallingford. This is how I remember it in my mind. Steamy windows, warm cafe smells, and the clink of coffee spoons. One of us sneaks up behind the other one in greeting, soon we are laughing so hard we're falling over in the snow. And then Mr Doelger shows up and we hear his characteristic "Hel-LO!" And, he is usually wearing a new fleece. :)
He asks us questions. What IS the nature of happiness? Are humans fundamentally good or bad? Can good teaching be measured? And Evelyn's favorite – "ok – How so when are we going skiing??" He asks us how we are doing. Somehow when we explain, we see our lives in a new light - we see what is possible, what is exciting, what is good. He gives us advice. But it's always advice disguised as questions. Questions that create for us a wiser perspective on life. That give us a deeper understanding, help us navigate choices before us.
You always get the sense with Mr. Doelger that he is motivated not by money or pride, but by what is good, by what is the right thing to do. And maybe, by a sense of wonder and fun, how COOL life is. =) It permeates everything he does. It has been over ten years we have been having coffee with Mr Doelger – every Christmas, and nearly every time Evelyn comes home. And every time we see him it is impossible not to be infected with that same spirit of wonder, of fun, and of how very cool life is. =)

Chris Carr ’95

Doelger, more than a nickname, was the real-life incarnation of a character who had somehow emerged from that book that you never wanted to put down. Nimble but wise, our muse guided us as Virgil did Dante, but instead of hell's circles we explored expansive caverns of human thought and experience, emerged within richly dark forests through twists and turns, and found ourselves, in the parting mist, in mountain-top winds under the light of sudden illumination.

Doelger eloquently weaves magnificent tapestries that one experiences as twists and turns, which, one comes to realize in the end, lead as straight as a razor's edge to the heart of the matter.

Andrew Mattox ’95

Tom Doelger is one of the most influential teachers I've ever had - and for me, "teacher" is not simply academic.  My teachers are all who have touched my life, from an elder Nepali yogi to a salty smokejumper foreman.  He possesses a rare genius.  Once, he told me that all great writing has something about it that defies reduction.  Although sometimes I am tempted to call his a genius of expression, or communication, or simply of the boldness to inspire... there is something more.  Something that defies reduction.

Not long ago, he spoke to me of viewing the world with a mixture of bedazzlement and wonder, and yet when I look upon the ways he has touched and influenced so many, with such a postive voice, the bedazzlement and wonder is all mine.  [Were those his exact words?  I cannot remember...].  I am a questor: I have sought wisdom, and perhaps myself, from the winter basins of Death Valley to the far Himalaya.  I have hurled myself from airplanes onto flaming slopes, bled on foreign terraces, and screamed alone and starving in the forests at night - all willingly, all in a journey has been remarkable.  Why?  Because I am inspired - and not least among that inspiration has been his example.  I am inspired to be alive, to err, to yearn, to seek wisdom and know and teach and heal.

One of the greatest quests of my life has been that of learning to speak, through a severe stutter.  I am now mostly fluent - and the power of communication that he demonstrated in the classroom, with those inimitable [correct word?] "Mr. Doelger speeches" has played a not-insubstantial role in my motivation.  I am now occasionally told that I am wonderful storyteller.  If that is true, it is only because of my teachers.  Tom Doelger helped reveal to me the meaning and power of communication.  Those realizations have fueled me through the long night of a knotted tongue.

Perhaps that is part of the irreducability of Tom Doelger.  He inspires me to be who I am, or perhaps simply to be inspired, wherever it leads - and that is not subject to reduction.

Joel Stonington ’98

When I was in high school, Tom Doelger was that teacher who changed my life. I know many other students feel the same way. He was the one with the intellect, passion and off-key advice that worked. Back in the '70s, Doelger was known as "Dizzy" and served on the Snowmass ski patrol. During that time he got, "the call" that led him to being a teacher in Seattle rather than climbing the Skico ladder in Aspen. Now I live here with two friends from high school, both of whom took classes from Doelger. So when he came into town last week, we had to have him over for dinner. On Snowmass patrol, Doelger felt like he was in heaven. He couldn't imagine wanting to do much else. But one evening, a friend called and asked if he might consider an opening to teach at an East Coast boarding school. The way Doelger put it, there wasn't much closer to hell, so he figured he'd give it a try and then he would have his bases of heaven and hell covered. Of course, after the first day, he never looked back. When I asked him about retirement he said he was so fulfilled by teaching that he couldn't imagine stopping. And that's all we can really ask. Maybe that's what Aspen is all about for the people who struggle to find a job here that works so they can be fulfilled with this wonderful place. Maybe that's what leaving Aspen is all about, too. Because though much seems hellish leaving a near-perfect place, guys like Dizzy sometimes need to get out of here to focus on changing kids' lives. Might we all be lucky enough to get the call.

Jordan Swanson ‘98

As you may know, Mr. Doelger was my advisor at Lakeside from 1996-98, my sophomore English teacher, and my teacher of Time & Space and Quest during Senior year. He is one of my favorite people in the world.
Tom Doelger invokes substantial courage, humor, and introspection to the mighty task of coaxing affinity--understanding, even!--of language and literature by young people. He encourages each of us to do the same when we face what seem like insurmountable challenges as well.
For such a profound mind, most of what Mr. Doelger says is actually quite concise. There were two rules when our class started sophomore English: "One, put a 'Mister' before 'Doelger'. Second, I don't like the word 'sucks.' And I really want to never hear: 'Doelger... sucks!'" I will never think of William Shakespeare without thinking of 1564 and 1616, true to his belief that literature is far more vivid with context. And I remember the core of his advice when I was going to apply to college. "Go East, young man. All people should live on the East Coast for some time."
I will never forget the story of how Kern, a rotund friend of Mr. Doelger's from the Aspen ski patrol days, tried to jump a large ravine that was situated on a hillside. This story was told to us complete with extensive drawings of the hills in question on the blackboard. In the end, Kern sailed over the ravine, but not quite far enough, and bored a hole through the snowdrifts on the far side before popping out on the hillside and tumbling what must have been many hundred feet to the bottom. Until this day, I can't find any real significance in the story, much less an implication to sophomore English, but I have certainly replayed the story many dozens of times in my head. 
Since high school, we try to go running together every year or two on the 6-mile, many-vertical-feet route that he has refined over the years behind his home in Shoreline. I ran on the Lakeside cross country team in the State Championships three times, and yet I find it almost impossible to keep up. More recently, however, I have noticed that he often asks me a very long and detailed question right before the big hill.

Terry Kegel '99

I can hear his words so clearly still in my head: "Never presume that you are superior.  We are all in the river together."  Mr. Doelger's last story in St. Nicks sent us off to discover the world with humble eyes.  In everything, humility.  Only he can say it like that, because he truly lives it.

Collin Jackson ’00

Mr.Doelger has a thousand stories to tell. He hides them in his head, saving them up for the perfect moment, and then when you least expect it, he delivers one with such devastating grace and perfection that you are left, for a moment, completely stunned. Have you ever experienced something so beautiful that it makes you sad and happy, angry and complacent, all at the same time? That is how I felt listening to him speak.

Annika Swanson ’00

Since high school I have traveled and lived in many different places. I have gradually honed down what I bring with me from place to place, knowing I will acquire new clothes, new household objects, and new books in each new place. But one of the few things I’ve continued to carry with me is a copy of Mr. Doelger’s speech from my own baccalaureate, entitled “Why Teach.” It came with me to college and survived the moves from dorm room to dorm room while many other papers got lost. It came with me to Spain and Paris, when I lived for about four months in each country during a year-long leave of absence from college. When I did a one-year teaching fellowship at a boarding school in rural England following college, I read it the night before my first day of classes. Not really because the speech is about why one should teach, though that was certainly part of it. But because it is about the power of connecting with people, the challenge and joy of pushing them and being pushed by them, of learning from those you are supposedly “teaching.” And because it brought to mind one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, both within and outside of the classroom.

There are those teachers that will always remain figures at the front of the classroom – as the student, you forget that they have real lives and families outside of their role as Teacher. And then there’s Mr. Doelger, who I sometimes forget has a day job as a teacher in a classroom. He’s so equally at home carving graceful turns down double-diamond ski slopes, paddling down the Green River through Utah’s crimson canyons, and running tirelessly through Seattle’s hilly streets. Whenever time allowed, he took our senior-year Quest class out of the classroom, holding our sessions in Zoka’s coffee shop until we could actually be in our real destination, Utah’s spectacular canyon country. There, rock-hard pilot biscuit (n. tasteless cracker with a shelf-life that rivals a Twinkie’s) in hand, he would sit on a white plastic backcountry lunch bin and ask us a provocative question or casually mention how Thoreau or Edward Abbey might react to some aspect of our day – and soon we’d be in a discussion worthy of the most esteemed Lakeside English classroom without even realizing it.

I’ve had some terrific English teachers who have taught me how to analyze the subtleties of texts and the underlying motivations of the characters. With their help, I came to imagine Lady Macbeth, Pip, and Okonkwo vividly and to understand their perspectives. But Mr. Doelger brought these characters to life as members of our own community, even versions of ourselves. His lectures, filled with equal parts textual analysis and parallel anecdotes from his own life or from Lakeside itself, revealed the Daisy Buchanans and Holden Caufields around and among us. Holden was a reflection of my own adolescent frustration with the world’s superficiality and hypocrisy, while Daisy was the privileged careless Lakesider I hoped to avoid becoming. Through Mr. Doelger’s classes, literature became a source of personal insight more than ever before, and its characters exaggerated versions of myself or people I knew, rather than only fascinating personalities that would always remain fictional.

Mr. Doelger was not wedded to the curriculum. His goal was our learning – and by learning I don’t mean simply perfecting the analytical essay, but also drawing insights into ourselves and society from the words and stories of the greatest authors and essayists and from our own reflections on the world around us. So, a month or so into our senior year Quest class, when Mr. Doelger realized that the ten of us did not share his enchantment with Annie Dillard’s
The Pilgrim At Tinker Creek and had stopped doing our nightly reading assignments, he announced, “Well you might as well just leave your books at the back of the classroom so you don’t waste the effort lugging them around in your backpacks.” With a hearty laugh, he lamented our failure to grasp the beauty of Dillard’s style, and then quickly moved us on to Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire. Abbey’s rugged individualism and sardonic humor immediately clicked with us and his words echoed in my head during our time in the desert. Eight years later, on a road trip through Utah with my boyfriend, we picked up a copy of Desert Solitaire at the Moab gift shop and read it aloud as we drove and hiked through the canyon country. Abbey’s perspective resonated with me just as strongly as before, and I thanked Mr. Doelger for the introduction. Had he stubbornly forced us through Annie Dillard, I would probably have been stuck eight years later just listening to U2’s “Joshua Tree” album on repeat.

I am thrilled that this book is being published. It is a tribute to Mr. Doelger’s remarkable teaching and his influence on so many of us. Mr. Doelger’s speeches have been as insightful as any great literature for so many Lakesiders. Yet there is one important thing this book won’t be able to capture: as eloquently as Mr. Doelger speaks, he listens perhaps even more eloquently. He truly engages. He asks questions from a place of genuine curiosity, and those questions often push me to delve deeper into my own experiences than I have before, giving me new insight into what I’m explaining to him. His responses are nothing but authentic. When he says, “I am delighted to hear that,” you know that he is, truly, delighted to hear that. In my experience it is this, as much as anything else, that makes him such a powerful teacher and role model.

I confess – it wasn’t until a senior year class with Mr. Doelger that I learned the meaning of the word “sublime”. Until that time, when I heard “sublime” the two things that came to mind were the 90s reggae-punk band and slime. I don’t remember exactly when or in what context Mr. Doelger first explained the word “sublime” to us, but I’ve loved the word ever since. And I’ve always associated it with Mr. Doelger. Conversations with him, the interplay of his eloquent speaking and listening, cannot be fully captured in a book, only experienced in his little office in Moore Hall, on a snowy chairlift ride, or over a latte at Zoka’s or a pilot biscuit in Labyrinth Canyon. Yet those of us who have had the opportunity to experience them know they are, indeed, sublime.

Someday I hope to have kids, and I hope that those kids have as wonderful and formative a high school experience as I did, maybe even at Lakeside. But it may be too much to hope that they have someone like Mr. Doelger for a teacher. It is no small consolation to know that, thanks to this book, they will at least learn from Mr. Doelger’s words and insights (as well as, I assume, some of his most amusing anecdotes) even if he is not the teacher at the front of their classroom. And hopefully, with Mr. Doelger in mind, I’ll listen to their adolescent dreams and musings and speculations as authentically and eloquently as Mr. Doelger has always listened to mine.

Sarah Sullivan ’01

Let’s begin.  When I first encountered Mr. Doelger, he was already submerged in his element on the opening day of school, surrounded by a classroom bursting with high school sophomores and their colorful Jansport, Five Star, and Gortex accoutrements.  Running late that morning because I had erred on my path to his somewhat cramped bird’s nest atop Moore Hall, I stumbled noisily into a silent classroom of students all seated with eyes closed.  Unbeknownst to me, I had interrupted the Doelgarian ritual of welcoming the academic year with a moment of shared silence.  Quietly, apparently undisturbed, and with a gentle stoicism I would come to cherish, Mr. Doelger opened his eyes briefly and said only: “Let’s begin again.” 

Erica Franklin ’01

Mr. Doelger was one of the most gifted and memorable teachers I have ever had. Under his tutelage, I grew as a writer, a reader, and a person. It's been about seven years since I have had him as an English teacher and college counselor, but  the pearls of wisdom he imparted in and out of the classroom are still with me.

JP Schnapper-Casteras ’01

Towards the end of sophomore English classes, Mr. Doelger often told a story.  Some started with colorful protagonists, others centered on skiing, and many ended with droll punch lines.  The stories were seemingly fueled by a mix of coffee and kinetic energy, palpable even in the quietest corners of his tales.  Doelger's anecdotes were always a highlight, something we looked forward to and talked about in the halls for days after.  Come to think of it, his stories often read more like speeches -- with a well-defined structure scrawled in Doelger's famous spiral notebooks.  And in turn, Doelger's speeches outside the classroom sounded more like stories, built on laughs, dramatic pauses, and earned trust.    For me and many others, Doelger's class has taken on almost mythic status.  Like all good myths, some aspects remain beyond comprehension.  I'm not sure I'll ever totally understand all the ways why his speeches were so electrifying.  But maybe that is another of Doelger's lessons: that great storytelling requires dedication, anticipation -- and a dash of improv.  And that, is sheer Doelger.

Lily Whitsitt ’01

The Milk of Human Kindness

“yet I do fear thy nature;
It is too full o’th’milk of human kindness.”
Macbeth, Act I, Scene v.

I wonder how many college or graduate school admissions staff across the country have read Mr. Doelger’s name on one of his former students’ applications. I know he made it into my graduate school applications for Master of Fine Arts programs. Here’s an excerpt from my application:

“I was lucky enough to have a number of exceptional teachers. For them, each class was a performance, an opportunity to share a piece of knowledge, or a chance to tell a favorite story. These teachers are some of the best actors I have ever known. They knew how to hold their audience’s attention, how to entertain, and how to inspire. I still remember Mr. Doelger’s stories about the death of his first dog, his adventures climbing birch trees, and the time he almost died at the age of six choking on a peach. Yet I also remember his lectures on
Macbeth, Robert Frost, and The Great Gatsby. Mr. Doelger, along with my other great teachers, taught me the art of storytelling, the importance of community, and the joy of learning. These classes were invaluable life experiences I had as a young person growing up in Seattle. They solidified my love of sitting in a room with others and sharing stories.”

Now that I am in my second year of graduate school at the California Institute for the Arts, studying theater directing, I still believe that these classes are some of the greatest gifts I have received from anyone. As a director, I try to create unique experiences for people. I craft stories, using time and space as my tools. These are precisely the experiences Mr. Doelger gave me on a weekly basis with his stories and lectures.

In addition to the wisdom I learned in his classroom, I was one of the few students fortunate enough to travel down the Green River in a canoe with Mr. Doelger, as part of the Quest class. One afternoon in particular is burned in my memory. Mr. Doelger and I were discussing
Macbeth and The Brothers Karamazov, the two pieces of literature he cites as his favorites. Unexpectedly, he asked me to list for him the qualities I think are most important in a life partner. I listed the first traits that came to mind for someone I would like to share my life with including intelligence, a sense of humor, and generosity. When I finished, he looked at me and smiled his wry Doelger smile, the one that tells you he’s got something up his sleeve. “You left out what I think are the two most important traits in a partner.” He paused, in the way that only a good teacher or an actor can. “What are they?” I asked, not being able to outlast his silence. “Kindness and compassion,” he replied.

These two qualities personify Mr. Doelger. He lives his life by these virtues and thus they live in his classroom. That small room in the top of Bliss Hall, with its creaky windows and uncomfortable chairs, is seeped in kindness and compassion. They exist in the personal stories Mr. Doelger shares, the plastic toys he uses as teaching tools for his grammar lessons, and his photo-filled, snug office. He organizes his classroom and his life around these principals.

Perhaps it could be argued that one of the reasons that Doelger’s favorite,
Macbeth, does not survive is that he is too “full o’th’milk of human kindness.” His constitution cannot handle the gravity of the sins his wife urges him to commit, and thus before his death he speaks of life as “a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.” For Mr. Doelger life is a tale signifying everything. Every book he reads, film he sees, and conversation he overhears becomes a possible lesson plan, another story to craft into one of his unique classroom performances that live on in his students minds “To the last syllable of recorded time.”

M. Kennedy Leavens ‘02

English IV: Modernism

Twenty-three desks pushed together in the center of a tiny classroom form an oddly-shaped table. Mr. Doelger sits nearly motionless at the table’s far corner, wearing, as he does every day, a red North face vest from Rummage and a faded blue-striped collared shirt. The clock above the door reads 1:19 pm. With an expressionless face, he watches as unruly seniors claim seats and swing down bookbags. Several of his legendary notebooks, dog-eared and brimming with years of class notes, poems and magazine articles are stacked neatly on the table in front of him.

“David!” He barks abruptly. The minute hand on the clock has just turned to 1:20. Mr. Doelger has suddenly assumed a velociraptor-like manner. He is leaning forward, his chin jutted out, his skin stretched tightly over his thin face and his neck, which he extends, maximizing the velociraptor effect. His eyes widen, round and bulging, his long nose points towards his victim. He is staring, unblinking, at Kyle. Slowly the classroom falls quiet and all eyes in the room turn in the same direction. Mr. Doelger jerks his head towards David. Kyle breathes a sigh of relief.

“David,” Mr. Doelger says in a kinder tone, with a playful gleam in his eye. The corners of his thin lips twitch, trying to stifle a smile. “For today – the
second day of class, David – I assigned you a long, dull poem.” Mr. Doelger lowers his eyes, nods his head, and sighs, feigning remorse for his confessed cruelty.

Again he addresses David, this time with a teasing note in his voice. “But I assume, David, that you want to go to college, and because I can ensure that if you did not read the poem, that you will not go to college [here he pauses and looks around the room with a mockingly threatening expression] then presumably, David, you not only read ‘The Ancient Mariner’ but studied it thoroughly and have come to class with a comprehensive understanding of Coleridge’s work. So, off the top of your head, David, tell us, why did the Mariner shoot the Albatross?” One corner of Mr. Doelger’s mouth is turned up, and a crooked smile now spreads across his face. His eyes continue to sparkly mischievously.

“Um, I’m not really sure,” replies David nervously. Early in the school year, the class is still unaccustomed to their English teacher’s curious behavior.

“Would you have shot the albatross?” Mr. Doelger inquires innocently.

Poor David rubs his chin, mystified. He is unable to tell whether Mr. Doelger actually expects an answer. “I don’t think so,” he finally responds, shaking his head.

“Well, I would have shot it,” Mr. Doelger announces to the class. Eyebrows go up. “And this is how I know,” he says, and with this peculiar introduction he embarks upon one of his famed stories.

Slowly, quietly, he draws us in, chronicling his boyhood in New York City, afternoons spent on the roof of his friend’s apartment building, shooting tin cans with BB guns. By the time he launches into a stomach-turning description of New York City’s pigeon problems, his stern classroom manner has gone. He casually explains that one couldn’t really consider them birds after living with the noise and the smell of thousands of pigeons roosting under one’s eaves. “So,” he continues with that familiar twitch at the corner of his mouth, “it was easy to think of them as targets.”

A few students gasp, appalled yet rapt; others giggle in disbelief. Mr. Doelger has become a performer, and his audience soaks in his every word. We laugh as he comically recounts his friend’s first efforts to shoot the pigeons, and jaws drop as he re-enacts the triumph of hitting his first bird. His tone changes as he recounts watching the body jerk in midair at the impact of the BB shell. He describes his and his friend’s rush to the edge of the roof to watch the bird fall, headfirst, its wings ajar as it drops through the air, spiraling downward further and further until it is out of sight. The image of the missile-pigeons is vivid in our minds; it captivates, fascinates, horrifies us. Mr. Doelger pauses.

“I don’t know who of you would have shot the albatross,” he finally says softly, looking around the table at the silent, somber faces of his students, “but I know I would have.”

Again he poses the question, this time to no one in particular, and the discussion that follows is not about the assigned poem as much as it is about cruelty, helplessness and hate. On the second day of class, Mr. Doelger’s students already knew that they would struggle with obscure texts and a demanding workload, that the course was challenging, the expectations high, the literature itself exhausting and its meaning, elusive. Every class we looked forward to the story, current event or magazine article photocopied and handed out that illuminated the great works on Mr. Doelger’s syllabus and served as a springboard for our conversations. We shared our own stories; we talked about love and God, fear and beauty. Though we learned to recognize symbolism or a gerund, this was more than a course in literature. This was an education in life, in truth, and thought, and that, though mentioned nowhere in his course descriptions, is the subject matter taught by the beloved and legendary Mr. Doelger.

Molly Montes ’02

Mr. Doelger is a wonderful storyteller not only because he has a wry sense of humor that embraces both the triumphs and follies of himself and others, or because his memory encompasses the emotional nuances comprising interactions and interpersonal connections. Mr. Doelger is a delightful storyteller because he has the remarkable capacity to weave his stories into the fabric of everyday life and highlight feelings and experiences that resonate with each and every one of his listeners. This profound understanding surpasses a mere ability to tell stories, however; Mr. Doelger is a master of the thought provoking question that permits students to consider their own experiences and plumb the depths of meaning in their lives. Although I am an alumni of more than a few years,  I still return to Lakeside to seek out Mr. Doelger for this fount of wisdom and thoughtfulness from which I depart feeling a sense of peace and increased self-awareness.

Maia Goodman ’03

Now that I am a high school English teacher, I often find myself thinking about Mr. Doelger.  I think of his patience and his wisdom, his ability to ask questions and to listen as though you are the only person of importance in the world.  I think of the long train of students who have filed through his office, asking the unreasonable, the impossible, the inane.  And I think of how he treated us all with such respect.  Within our confusion he saw wisdom and within our teenage bluster he saw a unique being, searching for self-definition. 

William Chen ’03

In his wisdom, fully understanding the self-exceptionalism of youth, Tom Doelger taught with a guiding hand rather than an iron fist.  He understood that many lessons are best learned through experience and that life is best lived with ownership of one's own choices.  With self-deprecation and an unabashed acknowledgment of quirks, such as his inordinate fondness for cars, he nurtured students not as some distant arbiter, possessor of truths and laws, but as a friend.

Chrissie Coxon ’03

For me, Mr. Doelger continues to be a teacher who models delight in each moment--delight not just for its own sake, but as the addition to a life otherwise radiantly fulfilled by vocation. Mr. Doelger delights in the perfect rummage sale fleece; in the quest for a car for each day of the week; in stringing the holiday lights across his classroom the day before winter break; in having a stuffed gorilla in a bathtub in that same sparkling room; in pointing out that concession can serve an author as well as insistence. And concurrently, he savors shepherding his students toward their own purpose and service to the world. Five years after leaving his daily watch, I too am a teacher. And in both my memories of and current conversations with Mr. Doelger, my quest to instill true excellence in my students--in the same way Mr. Doelger did in me--is strengthened.

Aaron Rose ’04

When I look back at the person I was at eighteen, I am always struck by how precocious I was. It is embarrassing, really, adolescence, in many ways--but looking back what amazes me is that Tom never seemed to be embarrassed by any of this. You never got the sense that he needed to keep any distance; rather, he came at you right on the level. He had this amazing ability to connect. He always worked the positive angle, with temperance and sincerity, ever constructive. Truly, he knew how to lead from behind, how to let you go ahead, in order that you should begin to believe in yourself, too. You were drawn to him, and I think his allure had to do with the way in which he was able to see the extraordinary potential in everyone, and the value he placed on cultivating this freedom, this sense of possibility, and the effervescent peace in this awakened repose...Talking with Tom was like falling in love with the world.

He knew how to listen--above all, he knew how to listen. In his classes you felt that you were valued, because he was paying attention to you! He was listening and he
cared to listen. Perhaps this is his secret. The room was always excited with an atmosphere of respect, and he conditioned the boisterous, the defensive, the presumptuous, and made all these young students kind and considerate per his example--but more importantly, he made these kids want to be that way. With an authority that did not impose and did not judge, he conditioned this atmosphere. It was a beautiful space. The world was different when you walked into his classroom, which, more than anything, was characterized by this feeling. I think he knew that and he liked that. In the classroom he was at home. In his classroom he was able to work his magic--weaving threads of narrative through the glimmering world of fiction and philosophy, so foreign, so vast, so exciting at that age...This magic was even written on the walls themselves: the eclectic assortment of little things--an M.C. Escher, a miraculous (albeit pitiful) little plant, a matchbox car, an enameled iron bathtub, Calvin, and Hobbes, and a poster of a red Mercedes gull-wing with its doors outstretched--all told the history of a simple, humble, and overflowing enjoyment with this life, this world, and his work within it. If we remember him well, we remember him laughing.

I don't know if a high enough value can be attached to Tom’s attitude of impassioned and idiosyncratic amusement, his composure, gentleness, and great generosity. I think he inspired all of us to be better people...to each other and to ourselves. He has done a great service to the world with all his work in the small things, for it is here where we build ourselves, make moments, memories, and changes. It is here that the purest blessings are bestowed, here that the sweetest, most subtle emotions are savored, and Tom knew well how to cultivate this taste. Though he will be the first to tell you he was born with a natural talent for teaching, these words are a testament to his tremendous success, the irreducible evidence of a permanent praise and gratitude. Thank you, Tom; knowing and learning from you has definitely been one of the great joys of my life, and I know that I do not merely speak for myself.

Eugene Yi ’04

When he speaks, Mr. Doelger does more than convey slivers of conventional wisdom. His vibrant diction and carefully chosen anecdotes weave a picture that often plucks our existential heartstrings. His speeches give us perspective, challenge us to be reflective, and often goad us to grasp for life's higher motive. He achieves this feat not through dazzling rhetoric, but rather through humility and personal reflection. To me, these were the most important lessons I learned from Mr. Doelger.

Mr. Doelger's classroom decorations reflect his colorful personality. A gigantic stuffed animal gorilla sits in the back of the room, dry New Yorker cartoons are slathered onto all four walls, pictures of fast cars impart a sense of movement to each corner, and breathtaking mountain scenery clippings remind their beholders of transcendence beyond the classroom. I cherish the memories of sitting in this classroom, looking around and listening to Mr. Doelger's wise, cadenced words.

Scott Morse ’05

Mr. Doelger is one of a rare breed of teacher, one whose zeal for his subject is outweighed only by his compassion for his students. He possesses an indomitable spirit that makes anything he says impossible to ignore, and he presents the English language with such relish that it is a form of poetry all by itself. Most importantly, Mr. Doelger shines outside of the classroom as a mentor, friend, and sage. In the grandest literary tradition, he enjoys exploring the passions of others: what makes them tick, makes them smile, and what drives them. Through his commitment to the ideas of others, he has shown decades of Lakeside students that their thoughts, viewpoints, and dreams are more than just valid, they are vital. They are what must be shared, explored, and written about. They are what art and literature were created to celebrate.

Chris Fong ‘06

Every day in Mr. Doelger’s class we Grew. In that crowded little room of twenty or so students, we were enlightened through true Education by an extraordinary man. Here is a teacher who possesses some fundamental characteristic of the Wise within him, as if he has personally borne the various morose fates of our times, and imparts daily understandings to students who are just beginning to open their eyes and truly see reality. Whether it was through telling his narratives (always frustratingly ended yet so complete) scribbled into that well-worn notebook, engaging the class in comedic puppetry, or making subtle nudges during literary analysis, Mr. Doelger always managed to relay some small, profound revelation while remaining steadfastly everyday. He made us feel as if we could be honest with ourselves: that even if we didn’t fully comprehend the obscured themes, we still possessed something Great.

Perhaps equally significant to the fact and method of his teaching is that he has not lost hope. He, who for all intensive purposes might just be called a man, has seen and comprehended the terrors of modernity, but nevertheless still can stand acutely amidst the world with a deviously exuberant smile and hands up, whispering, “Look!” (In the most meaningful cases, Mr. Doelger shared with us little excerpts from his own life: door dings, rummage weasels, and nighttime cereal—just to name a few.) Hope, I believe, or at least some type of optimistic forward thinking, is the greatest lesson that he tried to instill in us. Much more important than any of the unfortunately necessary grades that stressed hard work or possibly even the themes of the class that forged in us a deeper understanding of the world, the sense of great achievement leading to powerful potentiality and a bright future for each person weaved itself silently into each meeting we had with Mr. Doelger. Ultimately, this freedom was the greatest gift he gave us. All that remains for us now is to take it. As he declared so prophetically would be the closing words of our Modernism course: Let’s go.

Kate Lund ’07

Tom Doelger can make a po-face. He can also deliver a stirring baccalaureate address, outstep us all on the Stairmaster, and engage a roomful of 12th graders in the last class standing between them and senior spring, but these are less noteworthy accomplishments. My senior year, a group of us were sitting outside reading Stoppard's play
Arcadia with Mr. Doelger when the script directed the character Bernard to "become instantly po-faced". This was not a familiar term. Nor was the po-face something best described verbally. So Mr. Doelger demonstrated, his face frozen in a look of mischief until it erupted in a split-second contortion—eyebrows raised, eyes bulged, lips twisted to one side. This was not the "humorless and disapproving" expression defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary. It was the absurd invention of Tom Doelger.

Mr. Doelger continued with
Arcadia, his voice carrying a beautiful passage out into a beautiful June day.  Three lines later, Stoppard writes, "The po-face is forgotten." Not so. I can no longer remember Bernard of Arcadia, I have forgotten the ending of Passage to India, and can't name more than three stories out of Dubliners. But the reader—his humor and his humility—stay with me. Many students start class starstruck by Mr. Doelger and his stunning ruminations; he seems to have asked life's questions and found the answers. But they come to realize that Mr. Doelger is not some rare philosopher. He is something simpler: a thoughtful man living joyfully.

"Oh boy," Mr. Doelger said, after completing his second—and final—exhibition of the po-face. He paused a moment, seeming to survey all that was around him. Then he threw back his head and laughed, tempering his soft-spoken wisdom with a love of life that is riotous. 

Peter J. Rasmussen ’07

Mr. Doelger has a rare talent of transforming the banality of everyday life into something extraordinarily special. He is a phenomenal storyteller not because he draws on a collection of bizarre or unusual experiences but because he discerns the richness and the beauty of ordinary life in a way that others do not. By profession, he is an English teacher – and a marvelous one, to be sure - but the most memorable lessons he teaches are not about the mechanics of the English language: first and foremost, Mr. Doelger teaches life.

Tom Doelger is among the most gifted lecturers I know. His style is humble and authentic, never preachy. His words convey a deep and unsatisfied curiosity about life that I’ve never seen in anyone else. Despite his wealth of experience as a teacher, a father and a world traveler, he retains a remarkable openness to the world.

I distinctly remember walking into his classroom on the last day of school expecting the granddaddy of all stories that would somehow miraculously integrate the entirety of the semester into a single concise message. I anticipated something elaborate but shouldn’t have been surprised when he decided to build his final lesson around an ordinary experience that happened during his exercise routine the previous afternoon. While he was jogging, he very narrowly missed being hit by a large bus that he estimated might have killed him if he had crossed the street just a moment earlier. This encounter, he said, reminded him of the ephemeral quality of life - how it can end unexpectedly in an instant. If we remembered nothing else he taught us, he wanted us to possess a constant awareness of how precious life is.

Other memories I cherish with Mr. Doelger:
  • The story of how he became a teacher. Mr. Doelger once revealed to my class that before he became an English teacher, he worked as a ski patrolman at one of the highest-paying ski resorts in the country. For a some time, he thought he had reached the pinnacle of his life and found the best job in the world. But eventually, his feelings changed. Over time, he found his lifestyle to be like eating delicious birthday cake for every meal of every day of every week; it became unbearable. According to his account of the story, he deliberated on what would be the least appealing, least pleasant and least financially-rewarding profession he might join. This is how he found teaching.
  • The first day of class when he spent the majority of the period detailing why we should drop out of his class and move to another section which had higher quality of instruction and a larger classroom with better ventilation.
  • Spelling tests that ended with up to a dozen arbitrary bonus questions like: “What is the Washington State insect?” “What is the capital of Kentucky?” and “What is the average salary of a Fortune 500 CEO?”
  • The red notebook he read from in class every day. When I tried to look over his shoulder, he quickly shut the cover and smiled, so I’ve never known exactly what’s inside. I get the sense he wrote in his notebook the night before everything he planned to say for the day.
  • Being left in the dust by him on steep trails in Peru on a GSL trip. He managed to out-last every one of the students on the group hikes and went out on his own on long, arduous treks while the rest of us relaxed in our hotel.
  • His quirky obsession with cars. He once admitted to us that he owned seven or eight cars. He tried to sell all but two but ended up buying even more.

Alice Minor ’07

When you are with Mr. Doelger, he makes you feel valued and interesting; you are his focus, you have a story to tell, you will teach him something. All this from the wisest man and best story teller I know! But this is why each conversation I have with Mr. Doelger is precious; his genuine focus and appreciate lead me to my truest and best self.

Colleen McCullough ’07

Mr. Doelger revolutionized what I expect from an English class and from a teacher. He made me realize that a teacher's job isn't to teach material; it's to connect material to our lives. Literature is not there to be analyzed by critics. It's there to help us understand each other and the world. It's a window into the important things in life. Mr. Doelger dared to talk about the important things. His classes illuminated life, rather than standing apart from it. He treated us with respect by talking with us about themes that we all truly cared about. I now see class and literature as a place to learn and develop as a person, and I largely thank Mr. Doelger for that.

Alex Morris ’08

In Mr. Doelger’s class, I never really worried about my grades. This wasn’t because he was an easy teacher, in fact far from it, but he inspired us to do well for other reasons. The love he has for teaching encouraged me to do well not because I wanted an A, but because I respected him. Mr. Doelger is an amazing teacher and a brilliantly warm person. He is an example of why Lakeside is special.

Alexander Oki ’08

Advisory with Mr. Doelger was all about questions. Mr. Doelger had a special “Advisory 2007-2008” spiral notebook in which he would prepare a list of questions for ever advisory meeting, in the same way he prepares his notes and stories for his actual classes. The members of our advisory would go around the table giving our opinions on major life ponderings, such as “does life exist after death”, as well as hazard our guesses at short quizzes testing our knowledge of American history or state capitals. The questions Mr. Doelger prepared for us often blossomed into stories, though occasionally trivial, the vignettes we would tell were frequently startlingly complex and thoughtful. Occasionally, Mr. Doelger would respond to his own queries and treat us all to one of the amazing stories he keeps in the library of his brain. We all looked forward to every Monday, Tuesday and Friday for our precious ten minutes of advisory (which were never sufficient, though we consistently went over time). Every day after advisory, I left feeling a curious sense of contentment that only surfaces after having your mind expanded by new ideas. Mr. Doelger’s teaching prowess stems from his wonderful ability to stimulate and engage his students through his carefully planned questions and stories. I have treasured all of the time I spent with Mr. Doelger and am so grateful for the extraordinary amount of time and energy he has dedicated to his students.

H. B. Augustine ’08

My fondest memory of Mr. Doelger is one time during class when he told a story about a woman who’d had cataract surgery at age 40 (or something like that); she’d been blind her entire life. As Mr. Doelger explained, the moment after she opened her eyes (and thus saw for the first time in her life), she immediately closed them. The utter beauty of it all was simply too overwhelming for her. Mr. Doelger concluded this remarkable tale with the insight that perhaps we’re constantly witnessing the same magnificence that the woman experienced, except we simply take it for granted.

He followed with an outlook of his own. He asked the class to look outside the window and to observe a nearby tree, which was in full blossom. Mr. Doelger said something along the lines of, “If you don’t take the time in life to appreciate how beautiful that tree is, then you’re doing too much.” The statement – though somewhat straightforward – had a very inspirational effect on me, to say the least.

Ever since that day, I’ve been a different person. I’ve appreciated life in general more so than I’d previously appreciated it, and my respect for Mr. Doelger as a teacher, philosopher, mentor, leader, and friend has likewise significantly increased. Mr. Doelger is without a doubt the most inspirational person I’ve ever known, and although there’s no objective proof for all the good he’s done not only for Lakeside, but – ultimately – for this planet, I have no doubt in my mind that the impact he’s had is, and will be, literally enormous.

Mr. Doelger is and will be an unsung hero for many people who haven’t and perhaps never will know who he is. He’s an inspirer for the individuals who will inspire the world.

Current Student, Class of ’09

When Tom Doelger speaks, his students listen. We are mezmorized by the anecdotes that he tells in English classes, not only because Mr. Doelger is a captivating speaker, but because his stories are real. They are tales of choices he has made, grief that he has experienced, articles that he has read, or even scenarios that he invents. Most of Mr. Doelger's class is spent discussing these cleverly presented tales. In fact, only part of our class time is spent discussing the assigned literature itself, yet when we do, we come to understand that every story told by Mr. Doelger is incredibly relevant to whatever we may be reading. After several weeks into Mr. Doelger's class, I thought that I was not taking a course in literature, but a course in life. After several more weeks, I realized, through his teaching, that there is no difference between the two.

The way that Mr. Doelger brings literature to life and life to literature in his teaching has inspired in two ways. First, I feel compelled to seek out literature in my own life – poetry in particular. Reading and memorizing poetry and more specifically, analyzing poetry in the context of my own life, has become a hobby of mine. Second, the way that Mr. Doelger is willing to share parts of himself with his students sets an example that I strive to follow in all of my interactions with other people. This openness is an essential part of any meaningful relationship. When Mr. Doelger speaks, his students listen because they are thrilled and inspired by the curiosity for life and books that he models and by his ability to share those passions with each of us.

Current Student, Class of ’12

My favorite quality of Mr. Doelger's many is his ability to captivate with countless stories. Whether they are funny or more serious, everyone pays close attention and listens carefully. He manages to weave valuable lessons into his narratives, offering us all a small piece of his wisdom. Most importantly, Mr. Doelger has the ability to motivate us to take these important messages to heart even after the story is finished or the class is over. His stories, and the lessons they teach are never forgotten.

Current Student, Class of ’12

At the ninth grade orientation, I told a senior that Mr. Doelger was my advisor and was instantly told that Mr. Doelger was the "Best teacher in the school", how right she was. When I first walked into Mr. Doelger's Ninth Grade English Class, he started with moment of silence for the upcoming year and then told a story behind it. One of Mr. Doelger most prominent characteristics is his storytelling and speaking, his way with words creates makes what he is talking about so real that it has captured the attention of all his students. Also, his other most well know feature is his humor, voted funniest teacher in a poll for assembly, Mr. Doelger always started class with a laugh. But beyond all these qualities, Mr. Doelger is a great man, he is always there to help me in everything, I respect his advice. All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better advisor or teacher.

Current Student, Class of ’12

Three days a week I and the rest of my advisor group haul ourselves up the stairs and into Mr. Doelger’s bitterly cold classroom. Whether tired, grumpy, or stressed out, we always excitedly await the arrival of out advisor, with his favorite pencil, his cup of tea, and his notebook full of profound interrogations. On some days he’ll begin with a concise request for silence and on others he’ll join in with whatever is being discussed and offer up a laugh, but everyday the conversation is focused on one of his thought provoking questions. The questions that Mr. Doelger shares with us during our ten minute advisory periods are cruelly torturous, as they require lifetimes to answer, and result in my consistent tardiness to third period due to in-depth pondering of the meanings of life and the purposes of the world we inhabit.

There have been many instances, in only one short school year, where I have been amazed at Mr. Doelger’s mental capacity and his purely good willed and insightful way of thinking about the world. During one of the darkest, coldest, most miserable Seattle months, Mr. Doelger scanned the classroom, making eye contact with each one of us seven advisees individually and said, “There is always something beautiful, and finding it is the most important part of each day.” That has been my goal for every day since then, and I know that that small yet significant message will be with me for the rest of my life.