These two beautiful people, educators par excellence, made an enormous impact on my life and the lives of many, very many. My cognizance of them began in Old Ray and Sonora, Arizona where they came to teach school in the 1950s. The first of my recollection was from church. Then I met Mr. Duarte on the football field as “Coach”. Later I was greeted to the real world by Mrs. Duarte as my High School Freshman English Teacher.
As for the Coach, I played JV football as an 8th grader (1959) … the High School staff snuck me in as I was a big strong lad and it was hoped I would develop.
I recall the old dirt field at Ray and how after we drug our tired bodies up the hill to the gym we would find Coach Duarte and Coach Smith playing one on one full court basketball. Most of the football team then spent the next hour or two burning holes in our socks. It was on the dirt field turned mud from sweat that I heard something only my father had said; in a huddle whining about the beating I was taking, Nestor Chavez said “If you keep that up I’ll give you something to cry about”. Cold, root hog or die; three yards and a cloud of dust, I learned to persevere.
At Kearny (1960) as we were getting showered and dressed the Coach would come out of his office and announce “The Butterfly is Leaving”… and headed for the school bus in the parking lot. He would start the vehicle and after a slow count of ten or so, he would begin to move out toward the road and Ray-Sonora…. leaving the door open until reaching the highway, if we hadn’t boarded in the parking lot there was the chance to take a running leap and hit the door before the highway. Then it was a long way home. I know as I had the adventure; more than once.
Coach Duarte’s sparkling eyes, big smile and tough love carried me through combat and then out into the commercial world where as an Account Manager for The Dow Chemical Company, I had the honor of doing good for many and the Bearcat Family. He and Rose were a blessing shared.
Mrs. Duarte was something else! Meeting her in a “business” setting, for the first time, made a significant impact upon the young student.
The event was the first day of Freshman High School English. Students filed into the classroom finding our teacher standing with her back to the class and focused upon the chalk board. Bodies settled and the bell rang. With deliberate intent, chalk lifted from the tray and her right hand scrolled “Mrs. Duarte” in large beautiful cursive… with flourish the chalk clicked as it regained the tray.
Still facing the blackboard, Mrs. Duarte began to speak. “My name is Missus Duarte and you are in Freshman English. I have a few pet peeves; it will be Yes Ma’am and No Ma’am, Please and Thank You at all times. You will be here in your seat each day with your work and text books before the bell rings, ready to go. If you do not think you can live up to my standards, you know where the door is; you just came through it.”
Then, calmly turning, Mrs. Duarte smiled and said “Good Morning Class”. The room echoed with “Ga ga ga…ma ma morrrrning Missus Duarte”. Next came “open your Literature Book”.
Our homework assignment was to absorb “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. We were expected to stand and recite the next day.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
Mt head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
As the school year progressed we learned much, even when we thought we had distracted Mrs. Duarte from her lesson plan; spending the session gabbing. At end of term as grades were reviewed we learned that our ability to speak was also being measured. Ah, what a wonderful educator and no nonsense Lady!
Such as it was in 1960. I took lessons learned and went on to graduate in 1964. Then, five semesters in college and over three years in the military with 18 months’ service in Viet Nam. Returning home, in 1970 looking to complete my college, I settled down and married. My spouse was teaching mathematics at McClintock High School at Tempe, Arizona and mentioned there was a lady teaching English who had taught at Ray.
The next day I went to the high school, before the day’s first class, and found Mrs. Duarte’s room. Entering I sat alone directly in front of her desk. She looked up at me and then down to her organizing. I began to recite Invictus and she looked up; our eyes met and I continued to complete the poem. She cocked her head and said. “I know you”. Yes, Ma’am, said I, and then she said “Giroux” and I nodded saying Yes Ma’am.
What came next set me back as she said, “Oh Frank, we can’t teach that way anymore”. I replied, “Then Mrs. Duarte. We are in very big trouble”.
I was schooled on the cusp; between God and self-respect on the one hand, old school, and Secularism and self-esteem on the other. Over the ensuing decades I have come to know and clearly understand social scientific progress has been in the works for a very long time with the intended outcome the destruction of that which heroes such as Joe and Rose strove so valiantly to nurture.
As I stepped out upon the corporate stage, with foundation laid by Rose and Joe, I learned it wasn’t viewed kindly to communicate above and beyond the acceptable trend; but did so anyway. These two beautiful people had significantly prepared me to serve others in building a better nation; where “class” is something which one either has or not. Where we take the talents on loan from God and develop them as best we can. Where we are resolved to follow neither an illegal nor an immoral order and to live knowing we answer to God for whatever we do.
Written by Frank W. Giroux
12 May 2020