A small town education doesn’t have to be small time.
That’s the philosophy that has driven Dale Higley for 30 years.
Higley’s dedication to quality education at Wendover High School, where he teaches math, driver’s education, and English as a second language, has earned him the title of Tooele County School District’s 2014 “Teacher of the Year.”
Higley graduated from Grantsville High School in 1976 when it was a small 2A school.
“When I went to college, I was worried that my education in a small school might not cut it,” he said. “At the end of the first quarter when I got straight A’s and I saw others from 3A, 4A and 5A schools struggling with B’s and C’s, I realized that my education was just as good.”
That insight helped guide Higley’s career at WHS.
“The students in Wendover both need and deserve the same education that students anywhere else receive,” he said. “They make the effort to show up for class and they are ready to learn, so I feel I have the obligation to show up prepared to teach them.”
Higley knew from a young age he was destined to be a teacher.
“I had some elementary teachers that were very good and I wanted to be like them,” he said. “I just wanted to teach older students.”
After he graduated from high school, Higley served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Argentina for two years.
He came home with an interest in Spanish and went to Dixie State College. He eventually graduated in 1985 from what is now Southern Utah University with a degree in secondary education with a major in Spanish and a minor in math.
In May 1985, a few weeks short of graduating from college, Higley came home and interviewed with Tooele County School District Superintendent Wally Gurney, who offered him a job teaching in Wendover.
“I thought Wendover would be a good place to start teaching,” he said. “Three years later, I talked it over with my wife and we decided to stay for three more years. We did that about ten times, every three years.”
Higley said he fell in love with the place and the people.
“The people in Wendover are wonderful,” he said. “We’ve raised our eight children here.”
When Higley first started teaching in Wendover, the Tooele County School District had a ten year agreement with the Elko County School District.
Tooele provided education for high school students from both Wendovers and Elko provided elementary education for students from both sides of the border.
“After 10 years the agreement expired,” he said. “Elko built a new high school in West Wendover and we went from a faculty of 35 to 13 on the Utah side.”
The smaller faculty meant more subjects to teach and more extra-curricular assignments.
“It’s tough to get people to want to come out here to teach and stay,” he said. “It’s a small town and a lot of work.”
Teaching ESL, math, driver’s education and Spanish while also coaching volleyball and soccer, and serving as the advisor to the student council, the junior class and the junior prom hasn’t been a problem for him.
However, after 30 years this might be Higley’s last year teaching, although he plans to stay in Wendover.
“My youngest son will graduate this year,” he said. “Maybe I’ll graduate with him.”