Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

First Person: San Diego Teacher Gets Kids To Love Nature

Granger Junior High School biology teacher Stuart Douglas in his classroom on October 21, 2016. He was recently named one of San Diego County's teachers of the year.
Michael Lipkin
Granger Junior High School biology teacher Stuart Douglas in his classroom on October 21, 2016. He was recently named one of San Diego County's teachers of the year.

First Person: San Diego Teacher On Loving Nature
First Person: San Diego Teacher On Loving Nature GUEST: Stuart Douglas, biology teacher, Granger Junior High School

Stuart Douglas is called the face of field trips at Granger Junior high school in National City. He's made it a priority to take his students not just a museums but into the natural world. He was honored last month is one of San Diego County's teachers of the year. As part of our ongoing First Person Series Douglas told us his story. My name is Stuart Douglas on the biology teacher at Granger Junior high school. I am a big believer in place base education and field trips. I started asking my class and it was staggering the amount of kids who would never been to a museum or a zoo Oregon fishing -- or gone fishing. May be they decide they want to be a paleontologist, a girl and I were looking at of painting. They have confidence and a dream and when you have that and the ability you can go anywhere you want. I was born in England. I moved to San Diego as a child. My parents were always taking us to places. By the time I was five, we were going on trips to the beach to go camping, we were going out to the desert and part of it was a quest to see America. Part of it was a great way for our family to spend time together without spending a lot of money. There were times spent going to the zoo or the museums and those experiences help support me of my love of nature and science. I told my parents I wanted to be a marine biologist and prior to that I wanted to be a paleontologist. I was always trying to figure out who Nessie was, since I was Scottish. I remember my dad take me fishing and we would get in his old truck and fish. We were watching and listening to nature. We were paying attention. It did not seem like it was studying. It was learning about the place that I lived in and learning about the place I was part of. It gave me more inspiration to find more places and more things. That's continued in my adult life. My very first year of teaching began in August 2000. In March of that year we had a school shooting. I was going to the front office and the security guys ran out, we got pushed out the door in the door shut behind us unlocked. There was a group of kids and I thought it was a fight. My classroom is right there and I thought if it was a fight I don't want it to be my kids. Eight remember gun shots and people were dropping. Whether they were hit or getting down. I could hear the bullets pinged off of polls and watch them skip off of concrete. I realized no one knew what was happening. The epidemic of school shootings that we face now as a nation, this was the beginning. We had Columbine and that was it. No one knew what was going on. I just started yelling at everyone to shut the doors in lockup. I was shoving kids into my room and I was getting ready to lock the door and seeing other the kids in taking I could get to that kid. I don't remember all of it. It's kind of a bad dream sometimes. All of our rooms interconnected and none of the other doors were locked. I ran through all of the classrooms and I grabbed all the kids that I could and brought them back into my room. I was trying to do what ever I could. The hardest thing was finally locking that door knowing there were still kids outside. I feel guilty that I did not tackle and stop that kid. Two kids did not come home. That something that haunts me and bothers me. It bothers me immensely, the fact that I feel I let them down. I tried not to make it a big deal in my life. It was really hard. I was having symptoms of PTSD, I remember going to pick up my newborn daughter and senior covered in blood, when she wasn't obviously. I remember walking with my wife in a car ran over a bottle and I plopped onto the ground because I thought it was a gunshot. My wife did save my life, and multiple ways. I think without her in my life I would not be doing this job. I don't know for sure if I would be on this planet. She did save me when I was pretty dark. She Shining that light for me to see and kept with me and believed in me and supported me and encouraged me and dealt with me. It was not easy to deal with me. I would not have wanted to do with myself. She stuck by me two times that I'm not proud of my behavior. I would clarify that, I don't remember a lot of it. It's nature's way of forgetting things in life that are painful. Without her, and her love and her example of what it is to be a person, I wouldn't be here. From the very first day, I realized I love this job. They are experiencing what I felt as a kid now. They are the ones getting excited to hold the Fossil in their hands or they get the chance to see an elephant for the first time. I've had kids on the ocean in we've seen pods of 200 dolphins and to see it reflected in the face of a 13-year-old or 14-year-old child is absolute magic. We are creating a generation of learners who are going to be able to tackle some of these huge environmental issues we have facing us. It's nice to be a small part of that. Granger Junior high school teacher of the year Stuart Douglas.

KPBS Midday Edition's First Person series tells the stories of average and not-so-average San Diegans in their own words. Their experiences, both universal and deeply personal, offer a unique lens into the news of the day.
Advertisement

Biology teacher Stuart Douglas is called the "face of field trips" at Granger Junior High School in National City. He's made it a priority to take his students not just to local museums, but into the natural world.

He was honored last month as one of five San Diego County teachers of the year. In the past decade, he has taken his students to Balboa Park, the Beckman Center for Conservation Research, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and dolphin watching on a research ship. Those are a few among many trips.

As part of our ongoing First Person series, we speak to Douglas about his own experiences with nature and how his first year as a teacher changed him.

Corrected: October 5, 2021 at 11:10 AM PDT
Do you have a story to share? Email it to kpbsmiddayedition@kpbs.org
Explore all national, state and local returns now.