Dedicated educator retiring after 44-year career, during which “i knew ‘em all” – school news network a window into your public schools gas stoichiometry problems


When he climbed aboard the Northview train in 1974, gas was going for less than four bits a gallon. A brand new Buick station wagon set you back about $3,400. Nixon was resigning. The average American income was just under $14,000. The speed limit on our highways was reduced to 55 miles per hour. And women were wearing something called “culottes.”

Northview has found another great educator to replace Duba, who recently announced his retirement. But even his successor wouldn’t argue that there will ever be another like Duba, a nuts and bolts administrator whose loyalty and commitment to staff and students is something you don’t conjure from college classes for teacher hopefuls. Eighth-grader Marvin Colbert gets a handshake and a “Duba mint” from Principal Dan Duba

“Loyal, honest and hard-working,” says Jerry Klekotka, who had served as Northview High’s athletic director but was just named as Duba’s successor. “He enjoys life – everything about it. And he has a way of bringing people together.” Replacing him, says Klekotka, “is going to be an honor, but also a challenge.”

Duba’s penchant for kids’ well being – and teachers’ — is evidenced in the pocketful of quotes he regularly slings. His favorite, and the one he goes to most often, is this: “They are all good kids; some just need a little more attention than others, and that’s why we’re here.”

Born and raised on the West Side of Grand Rapids, Duba grew up in entirely unpretentious ways. The youngest of six, his dad worked in a factory while Duba, his siblings and their friends fished the Grand River, played at nearby John Ball Park, and rode their bikes and scrounged for treasures at what everyone used to call the “Butterworth Dump” — a vast landfill south of the Coca-Cola bottling plant where people roamed at will during that era.

He attended Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary, and remembers, “I loved school, and by sixth grade, I knew I wanted to be a teacher.” He played three sports at West Catholic High, but only until he was 16, when he traded in his uniforms for part-time jobs. He’d already been employed the summer after eighth grade, as a busboy at the Pantlind Hotel, now the Amway Grand Plaza. The lesson learned was this: Both his sons were encouraged to play sports through their senior years in high school. Duba admires a piece of art by seventh-grader Mckenzie DeVries

Except for a decade spent as principal at Highlands Middle, he’s served as instructor and basketball coach and later principal at Crossroads, formerly Hills and Dales Middle. Throughout more than four decades, he’s taught virtually every subject to students in fifth through eighth grades. He’s also served as teacher, principal, dean of students, athletic director, leadership team member, intramural coordinator, accreditation committee co-chair and contract negotiator.

“I’ve been blessed to live out my dreams in middle school for 44 years,” he says, reflecting an entire professional lifetime dedicated to kids emerging as young adults – an age group some would consider the most challenging to guide on a day-to-day basis.

“Dan is very dedicated to his craft, and the thing that probably set him apart is that he believes in being in the school each and every day,” says Mike Anderson, who retired two years ago from the Northview system after a 46-year career as teacher and coach.

The day I visited Duba, he was signing off to a bunch of kids, and then nonchalantly took up a mop and started to help a custodian clean the cafeteria. In the next instant, he’s conversing with a teacher, and you can see relief in the instructor’s eyes when Duba emphasizes the word “flexible.” Duba helps out with cleaning duties in the lunchroom

If a kid messes up, Duba won’t yell. “We favor a positive model of discipline where everything is framed in ‘How should you be?’” he says. “If a student is having a bad day, they might be asked to write a plan of improvement. They have to ask themselves ‘What are you doing? … What are you supposed to be doing? … What are you going to do now?’”

“I truly appreciate everyone for allowing me to be a small part of their lives. It’s always been ‘school’ and not ‘work,’” he says. “And I’ve had many great mentors along the way, including Mike Anderson and Craig Schmidt … and countless others.