From the Banner: White's Ties to Schools go Way Back

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Bonnie Fancy, Banner Correspondent

WEST BOYLSTON - Six teachers are retiring from West Boylston High School this year. When Justin McGrath, Tony Perry, Ruth Bositis, Steve White, Mary Dentino and Richard Priestley leave at the end of the school year, they will take with them over 200 years of service to the West Boylston school system.

Steve White Of all of them, Steve White has been involved with West Boylston schools the longest. White has taught at the school since 1968, but his affiliation really began in 1952 when he began second grade in the Oakdale school house behind the Methodist Church.

He said recently that he had gone from the Oakdale School to the Woodland Street School. From there he went to the Goodale School and Major Edwards Elementary School. He entered the new West Boylston Junior Senior High School in 1957 as a seventh grader.

"We were the first class to go through all the way," he said, adding that it was also the last class with students from Boylston in it.

After graduating in 1963, White said he went to Upsala College in New Jersey and graduated in 1967. He said he got his master's degree at Assumption College and signed his first teacher's contract with West Boylston in April 1968.

"I stayed the whole time. It's always been English, grades 9 through 12," he said.

Until the advent of the Performing Arts Workshop in 1996, which he teaches with Sheila Tetler and Grace Johnson, White said he was the only one doing drama. He said he has helped produce the senior play every year since 1969, as well as several musicals during the late 1970s and early 1980s. According to White, the musicals done before that were done with David Leslie, Grace Leslie and Herb Maynard.

"I tried never to repeat and we never did," White said, referring to plays. A list of the plays bears this out. From the first one, "Hope Springs Eternal" to the last, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," no play has been repeated.

He noted that there has always been a Thursday matinee for the students at Edwards Elementary School.

He said it gives the younger students a chance to see the play which they might not otherwise have. He added that this exposure inspires some of them to get involved with the plays when they reach high school.

With the Performing Arts Workshop, White has helped put on five more musicals. that weren't enough, White said he has helped with play competitions since its inception 27 years ago by Marci Hudson.

In the classroom White has his own style as well. He said he knew seniors have a tendency to tune out toward the end of the year, so instead of term paper, he assigned them to do a project. He said the project could be anything a long as it pertained to something the students had studied in English that year. Among the projects he received was medieval dinner put on by some students and a chain mail gauntlet made by another of his students.

"I always tried to keep something going to the very end," he said.

Along with the plays, White has chaperoned many field trips, including the annual trip to Quebec and has trainee-student teachers.

He has taken the time to write grants. He said that although the recent school renovation included a new floor in the auditorium and a refurbishment of the seats, it was through funding by the Ellison Foundation and the Elton Drew Foundation that new curtains and a new stage floor were added. He said the grants also provided for a new sound system and additional lighting.

White said everything else in the auditorium is original dating to 1957. The funds have also provided scholarships to performing arts students.

White said he believes in the idea of the "Renaissance Man," which is that a person should be involved in many areas. He said when something goes wrong in one area, the person will have other things he or she can do successfully. To that end, he said he has encouraged students who were not theatrical to get involved in the plays. He said it was amazing to see some of them blossom and develop confidence.

"There's no one here who should feel they're only good at one thing," White said.

He noted, as a high school student, he was quiet and not involved with drama. He said he was involved in cross country and gymnastics and the gymnastics team practiced on the stage. He also took up scuba diving, something he continues to do today, and has incorporated in his other business, Underwater Pool Masters.

White said he is also a traditionalist. He said traditions are important and should be maintained. He said at the play competitions this year he was presented with a plaque for all the years he was involved. When he was asked to say a few words, he told the students, just because he was going, didn't mean the play comps shouldn't continue.

In keeping with his views on tradition, White said while many things have changed in the school since he started teaching, there are traditions that have kept on.

"I think there's a certain bastion of people who carry on the traditions," he said. He added that he hoped new people coming in would continue the traditions of dedication and continuity that exist at West Boylston High School.

As for retirement, White said someone asked him if he was scared. "Scared is the last thing I am," he said.

That is where the idea of knowing many things in many areas comes in, according to White. Because he started scuba diving in high school, White said he was able to start his business, which started out as a swimming pool repair business where he detected leaks and repaired them underwater. He said the business has grown to the point where leak repair is a very small component. According to White, Underwater Pool Masters also replaces liners, maintains, opens and closes pools, renovates and inspects them as well.

White pointed out that while many pools are closed in the winter, there will plenty for him to do.

"Swimming pools are not a simple thing. There's more to it than just dumping in chemicals," he said.

Swimming pool service people have to be certified, and according to White, many of the courses are held during the winter. Now that he won't be working at the school, he said maintaining his certifications will be easier. He said he is also expanding into the indoor pool area.

Community theater is something White said he might want to get involved with. He said he was disappointed that he could not get involved in David Leslie's current production of "My Fair Lady," but the time of the year is wrong. He said he might also go to the dive shop in Leicester and teach scuba.

He said the most important thing is to spend more time with his family.

That means that he won't be leaving the school system entirely. He said his daughter Carly is in the seventh grade, and sons Lucas and David are in fourth and second grades respectively. He is happy that they are in the same town he grew up in.

"I've really been happy to live in the town, giving my whole life here," he said.

Although right now the thought of not having to rush to work for seven thirty scunds nice, he said he doesn't know how he will feel come fall. He looked around the empty auditorium.

"I've spent many hours in this one room," he said.