by Jeannette Gano
photography by Ian Gratz
“Booze is the only answer.” Not a typical quote for a high school classroom, but appropriate for a specific math class at Bonita High School.
David Booze is the teacher of that class, and his work as an educator and varsity basketball coach at the school has impacted many young lives. His desk is neatly organized, with its only clutter being a large notepad filled with doodles and notes left by students. On the wall, a sticker reads: “Booze is the only answer.” There are several pictures and notes hanging beside his desk, each given to him by grateful students from past and present.
Four rows of desks face forward, directing students’ attention to an overhead projector where Mr. Booze stands. It is third period, and all but two desks are filled with second-year algebra students. Only one student sits at the front of the class, separated from others, as he has been disrupting another student. He is not being punished, says Booze, but “is being given the opportunity to succeed.”
Booze teaches this course, calculus and sports PE. He has high expectations for each of his students. In class, he expects their attention, and, for the most part receives it.
As he stands aside the projector, Booze writes information for students to copy. He assigns a sample problem and walks through the classroom aisles to assure that each student can execute the necessary moves to understand and attain the correct answer. He stops at a desk to guide a student doubtful of her answer; later, he wraps up the lesson to assign the homework assignment.
Booze loves working with young people because “they have their whole lives in front of them; they are so open minded.”
But his students make as much an impact on his life as he does in their own. He remembers his former students’ names and can pinpoint where each of them sat in his class. Many of them have returned to the classroom, taking a new seat in the room when they visit him. Often, current students come into his room during lunch to say hello or to eat lunch with him.
The math teacher says he respects his students with the hope that they respect him in turn. He lists students with after school detention on the chalkboard, and prefers to refer to the detention hour as, “getting to visit with me for a big party after school.”
Back in the classroom, the bell ending third period rings. Students pack their books; some call out, “Later, Mr. Booze,” as they make their way to the next period. Just before the next bell, a few students drop in to buy sodas from Booze. He sells them to help raise money for the basketball team.
Fourth period calculus students arrive, filling fewer seats than the previous class. The students object to their upcoming quiz, but Booze ignores their pleas and instructs them to begin. At the end of the quiz, one student exclaims, “You know, I really don’t like math.” The apathetic teacher sarcastically tells the student that he is deeply hurt and offended by such a comment. Students laugh, and class moves on.
Booze says he does not have a teaching philosophy, but that he just teaches. He has taught for a total of 12 years, the last 10 of which have been at Bonita. Booze says he knew he wanted to be a math teacher since taking a geometry class during his junior year of high school. He is also aware that many students find math difficult, and that most do not like it. But the same students find the subject easier to tolerate with Booze as their teacher. Christy Nicholas, a calculus student who has also had second year Algebra with Booze says, “He makes math fun; he’s organized. I’ve definitely learned a lot from him.” Says sophomore Emily Gordon, “He’s a fun teacher, and his math makes sense.”
The same reaction is received from his basketball team members. Anthony Estrada says that, as a teacher, “he is really good because he devotes most of his time to bettering the students.” As a coach, Booze “is constantly looking for new ideas to help the team and constantly working on ways to improve his coaching abilities,” adds Estrada.
“The past 10 years have been really enjoyable; they have just flown by. I hope to teach for many more years; I really enjoy watching the students grow and progress through the years,” says Booze. “I look forward to having past students visit with me years after they have left my classroom to see how their lives have changed, and how they are doing.”