“Like my car…
“Some days I am exhausted.
…“It is time for me to be re-tired.”
Puns are something that long-time science teacher Dale Croswell is famous for among his colleagues and students.Therefore, it was only fitting that when “Cros,” as he is known, sent staff members at Camas High School an e-mail announcing his pending retirement, he ended it with a pun.
“I have known Dale for 16 years, and (one of) my fondest memories are of the puns he can tell at the drop of a hat,” said Ellise Anderson, science department supervisor.
Added Steve Marshall, principal, “What I will remember about Dale is his positive outlook and sense of humor.”
Croswell, 61, has been teaching science at CHS since 1974, when the school was located at the site which is now Liberty Middle School. Getting the job was a bit of a fluke, however.
“I didn’t even apply to Camas because the district had just had a double levy failure,” he said. “Then I saw a flyer on campus at Western Washington University that there were openings here and I applied.”
The primary motivation for applying was to be closer to home. Croswell, a 1970 Washougal High School graduate, and wife Darlene, wanted to move back to the area.
Croswell was hired on a one-year contract to teach physics.
He never left.
“The timing of things in life is so important sometimes,” he said. “I tell my students, you never know when an opportunity will come, so be ready for it.”
Over the years, Croswell has also taught astronomy, photography, math and biology. He is grateful for his co-workers and students.
“I am really going to miss the people here,” he said. “It’s been really wonderful to work with so many others who have a goal to make young adults better adults. I always tell the kids, ‘You learn a lot more than physics in here.’”
In addition to physics, Croswell has coached the school’s Knowledge Bowl team since 1986 and served as the state coordinator since 1997. He has also been the announcer for CHS football games for 34 years.
He will hand the reins of Knowledge Bowl over to fellow teacher Sam Greene at the end of the season, but will continue in the “Cros’ nest,” as it is known, as a volunteer football announcer.
Anderson is thankful for that.
“I will miss him in the classroom,” she said. “At least I will still be able to hear him saying, ‘Hold everything, there’s a flag on the play,” almost every Friday night in the fall.”
She added that Croswell has taught a love of science to many students and teachers over the years, and recalled the “cool science demonstrations,” he could cook up at the drop of a hat.
“He would just go to the closet in his classroom, pull out a straw, plate, sand, whatever, and build a demo in two minutes,” she said. “He has impacted many lives in a positive way. He is kind and welcoming and an all-around great person.”
Croswell’s Knowledge Bowl teams typically fare very well, and have won state championships the last four years.
Marshall remembers the team’s first big win.
“A particular memory that stands out is how, after decades of coaching and organizing the state Knowledge Bowl tournament, Dale won his first state title. He called me on my cell phone and was so excited to report the team’s unexpected victory. Then, next year, he won it again. The following year, another state title. Then, last year, he won his fourth title, this time at the 4A level. It was like the floodgates opened and he could not stop the success that had been a long time in coming.”
Kyle Binder, a senior, is the captain of this year’s Knowledge Bowl team and a student in Croswell’s Advanced Placement physics class.
“He’s really good about bringing in real-world experience to the classroom and making it relevant,” he said. “Also, he always has interesting anecdotes to tell us. Everyone appreciates that.”
As a four-year Knowledge Bowl participant, Binder appreciates having a coach with a lot of experience.
“He’s been doing it forever and is really good at bringing everyone together,” he said. “We’ve won state a ridiculous number of times and are set to win it again.”
Julia Bedont, a senior, is in her first year of Knowledge Bowl, and also takes AP physics from Croswell.
“As a teacher, he is very good about giving us real-world examples,” she said. “He’s also good about drawing pictures to help us understand physics concepts.”
She continued, “With Knowledge Bowl, I really like how he encourages us, and lets us know when we’re doing well, even if we don’t think so.”
Riley Currie, a ninth-grader, is a first-year Knowledge Bowl participant and takes pre-AP physics.
“Having had some really bad science teachers in the past, it is fun to be in a class where the concepts are taught really well,” she said. “And his puns are legendary. In Knowledge Bowl, he’s a good coach and has made it pretty enjoyable.”
Alexandra Schule, a senior, is in Croswell’s physics class. It’s the first time she’s had him for a teacher.
“He’s very, very funny,” she said. “He tells a lot of bad puns, and incorporates funniness and different ways to understand concepts.”Schule was scared to take physics due to the difficulty, but remarked the Croswell has really helped make the class enjoyable.
“It’s a hard class, but he makes you really have a love of science and he is really nice,” she said.
Growth and changes
When Croswell began teaching in 1974, CHS had approximately 750 students.
“I used to be able to stand in the hallway, and I would recognize every student,” he said. “Now, we have about 1,950 and I can’t do that anymore.”
As far as technological changes go, Croswell said he has a hard time even making a comparison.
“These changes occur gradually over time,” he noted. “But we have always had top-notch kids. That hasn’t changed. Camas is really unique because we have a lot of people who believe in a strong education, more so than other school districts.”
Croswell added that Tanis Knight, former assistant superintendent, deserves a lot of credit for how she raised expectations even higher.
“She really elevated the quality of education in this district,” he said. “We have wonderful teacher mentoring, Advanced Placement classes and a track record of students turning their assignments in. It is just the norm here now. I give her a lot of credit for that.”
Croswell noted that another big change at the high school is how well students do in sports, club championships, science competitions, state exams and AP tests.
But what has stayed the same is the “feel” of the high school, he noted.
“It’s still a small community here,” Croswell said. “The school spirit has remained high. And we have always had a fantastic staff.”
And his recommendations for whomever will fill his shoes?
“Be yourself. You don’t have to be me. The kids are awesome, so enjoy them. I do. The staff is amazing. Learn from them. The administration is wonderfully supportive, go to them.”
The first question most people ask when they hear of someone’s retirement tends to be, “What will you do with all of your free time?”
Croswell doesn’t have specific plans beyond more traveling, spending more time with his wife, and hugging his grandkids as often as possible.
“Sleeping in will also be great, especially on those mornings I know the staff here has early meetings, I’m not gonna lie,” he said with a smile. “I’ll have to find other ways to keep busy, but I’m interested in so much, I won’t be bored. I hope to one day say, ‘I don’t know how I ever had time to work!’”