Middle school math teacher Doug Darfus discusses his departure from teaching

by Sammy Bonasso, ’20

Jones Middle School advanced mathematics teacher Doug Darfus will retire from teaching at the end of the 2018-2019 school year. Darfus sent an email to former students May 6 describing his plans.

Darfus wrote in the email, “After 28 years in education, with 22 of those years serving the students, parents and community of Upper Arlington, I find it time to leave the profession. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Jones Middle School. The students have made me a kinder person, and the challenges have made me a better teacher. I will truly miss the relationships which I have made.”

Darfus plans on traveling to Arizona to work full time with Native American youth as a missionary through World Gospel Mission.

Photo courtesy thedarfusfamily.org

Darfus said in an interview, “[I] don’t know how many days I have left on this earth, and I want to do what I’m supposed to do—not that [teaching] isn’t worthwhile, because it is. I love what I do, and I know that I help kids. But I just feel like I’ve been asked to help different kids.”

Darfus originally aided Native American children in Arizona for a week in summer 2015 by volunteering at camps the children attend. After contemplating his experience for several months, he decided to return to Arizona with his whole family for a month in summer 2016. He returned again in 2017 for six weeks then decided he would like to volunteer full time in Arizona. Darfus and his family did not return in 2018 in order to raise money for their future plans, but they will visit for a week in July and return for full time work once they are adequately funded.

Darfus described the help he provides Native Americans as similar to Vacation Bible School, only 24 hours long and five days a week.

“What I’ve found [is that] these kids are craving attention—because there’s a lot of abuse. There’s a lot of addiction. There’s a lot of alcoholism. There’s a lot of trafficking,” Darfus said. “And they don’t have adults necessarily in their lives that give them the quality attention they need, and they don’t have a lot of direction. So what I’ve really found was, although I’m helping at camps, I’m really just building trust with these kids and building relationships.”

Darfus’ students can contact him through his blog, accessible at dougdarfus.com and thedarfusfamily.org, where he and his family will track their activities in Arizona at least once a week. Specifically, they will document the development of their relationships with the kids and of the kids in general.

Darfus still loves teaching, however.

“And the math is not necessary [for my teaching]: It’s the getting to know the students and getting them to trust you and to ask them to learn something that they may not want to learn,” Darfus said. “I hope they got something out of being in my class. I try to always be fair, I try to be challenging, I try to teach them how to learn, to persevere, to not give up—that they can take difficult material and make it easy. I know not every student liked me, and that’s fine. But I hope that they respect what I try to do for them.”

Darfus believes he will similarly help kids in Arizona, only not through math: He wishes to instill hope and intellectual curiosity in them.

Ultimately, despite societal customs and his own comfort, Darfus is retiring now largely to live without regret.

“There’s too many people I’ve met that said they had a dream or they wish they had done something, and they never did it, and I don’t want to be one of those people,” Darfus said. “This is something I feel God’s calling me to do, and I want to do it. I don’t want to wish, 20 years from now, ‘Oh, I should’ve done that.’ So for students, follow your dream: Do what you want to do. Logic says, ‘Complete two more years and retire. Collect your pension, and then go.’ But I don’t want to do that. It’s now. It’s not two years from now. You’ll always have something to put it off.”