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Teacher of the Year (Part 1 of 2)

Original Air Date 09/06/1988

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Guy Doud, recipient of the National Teacher of the Year award, recounts his childhood school experiences and how they helped shape his teaching career and passion for reaching kids. (Part 1 of 2)

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Episode Transcript


John Fuller: As we begin today on Focus on the Family, let me ask: Can you remember your middle school PE teacher? Today's guest does. 


Guy Doud: I had a Phy. Ed. teacher who had just finished 22 years as a drill instructor in the Marine Corp (Laughter). And it was his first year in education. And he was my 7th grade Phy. Ed. teacher. And he came into class and he was, "All right! Listen up!" (Laughter) I'm going to issue a lock! I am going to give you the combination to your lock! Should you forget the combination to your lock, I will write it across your forehead in Magic Marker! Is that understood?" (Laughter and Applause) 

And guess who forgot the combination? (Laughter) 

End of Teaser 

John: What a classic moment, out from Guy Doud. And we've got more from him today on Focus on the Family with your host, Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I'm John Fuller. 

Jim Daly: Hey, John, we're celebrating Focus on the Family's 40th anniversary by featuring one of our all-time favorite messages from Teacher of the Year, Guy Doud, who we just heard from. He is one of the all-time favorite programs. Focus on the Family broadcasts started as a weekly program on March 26, 1977 and aired on a handful of radio stations. And now, our daily program is heard on over 2,000 radio outlets across North America, with an estimated weekly audience of 6 million people! And, of course, we thank the Lord for that kind of impact. And we also want to recognize that the team that has gone before us did such a great job, including Dr. Dobson and that staff, who built a great foundation here at Focus for us to build on. And we are grateful to you to continue helping us impact people's lives. 

John: Um-hm. And Jim, we've been privileged, you and I both, to be here for a number of years. Our listeners may not know that you headed up our international division for quite some time and helped open Focus on the Family affiliate offices in locations from Iceland to New Zealand. And thanks to those efforts we have a world-wide reach and some 28 million listeners across the globe. 

Jim: Aw, man, that is so amazing. That opportunity to travel and the impact that we're having globally. We don't talk about it much but there is a lot going on for us globally and I hope, if you have an interest, just mention that and we'll give you more information about it. 

It's been a privilege to introduce other countries to the biblical advice and encouragement Focus on the Family's been offering for 40 years now. One of my favorite moments was being in Kenya talking to Dr. Lillian Wahome. And I said, "Lillian, with what we have to share on marriage and parenting, is that gonna resonate internationally?" And she so gently said, "You know, Jim, it's like an American to think you invented the family." (Laughter) Which I though was so funny. And she said, "Hey, as long as you're talkin' about marriage and parenting, and helping us do a better job of that, it will be the universal language that all will come to." And I think her words have proven true.

With that kind of listener-ship - 28 million, globally - I am so encouraged by what's happening. On today's program it is a great example of that encouragement aspect I'm talkin' about. It's a tribute to teachers and the impact they have when they can reach out and encourage the students who might be a bit on the sidelines at their school. Boy, many kids are living there today. And that's what makes this program still relevant.

Guy Doud was a high school teacher. I think language arts was his area of expertise. He taught for many years in Brainerd, Minnesota. He was named Teacher of the Year in 1986 and became a popular speaker and author, and partnered with Focus on the Family to produce a DVD which was of his story. It was called, "Molder of Dreams."

John: And that message has been a favorite in our house and that DVD is still a popular item at our Focus on the Family online store. And it's interesting to note, as well, that Guy served as a pastor for many years. 

With that backdrop, let's go ahead and hear from Guy Doud speaking to a group of youth leaders on today's Focus on the Family. 


Guy: I wanna talk about what we do, because we do something very similar. I … I teach in a high school; I work with kids. You work with kids. Sometimes when I go somewhere to speak they feel like they need to go on and on and on about how I was chosen National Teacher of the Year and honored at a ceremony at the White House and all of that. And I always … I always get up and say, "I really don't have any claim to fame."

After I was chosen National Teacher of the Year in 1986-87 (Laughter), a reporter from the USA Today phoned me—a gentleman by the name of Steve Marshall. And he said, "Mr. Doud, what does it feel like to have been chosen the best teacher in America?" 

Well, I thought about that a second and my head began to swell. Then, all of a sudden, I said, "Mr. Marshall, you have to stop right there. In no way does being chosen Teacher of the Year mean I'm the best teacher anywhere—certainly not in America with 2½ million teachers. Not in Minnesota, or Brainerd, Minnesota, where I teach. Hopefully, I'm the best teacher in my classroom." (Laughter) 

Sometimes I'm not so sure. But being chosen Teacher of the Year doesn't mean you're the best teacher anywhere. It's simply somebody to speak on behalf of all teachers. And especially with the added, I think, that the chance I've had to spread the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ, 'cause that's the most important thing in my life. 

And I've talked about the importance that teachers played in my life, because they did. It was a teacher who led me to the Lord Jesus Christ--a public school teacher. And we talk about mission fields; the public schools in America today are great mission fields. And we don't need any kind of antagonistic relationships between the schools and the church. Because truthfully, the public schools in America today are where most kids are gonna end up going. 

And the public school is only going to be as good as the people that are in it, the people that influence it and the people that work with it. And so, the public school of America today is a great, great mission field. And as a teacher and as a Christian, I see these kids and my heart bleeds. 

I teach mostly college-bound preparatory students, advanced placement classes. These kids are going to college. They want good ACT or SAT scores. They want tremendous grades, nothing but straight A's. They want big scholarships. They feel the pressure to succeed. They know that education means their ticket to success. 

I have no trouble at all motivating those students, none whatsoever. They keep me motivated. All I have to do is come into class and use my most basic motivational technique--one that one of my Chinese professors in college used, who came into class the first day and he looked at us and he said, "Sometimes me [sic] flunk whole class." (Laughter) 

And from that moment on, those kids write down everything I say. (Laughter) "You're dismissed." "You're dismissed." (Laughter) But then, I'm always given a class or two of Fundamentals of Composition—the detested, basic grammar and writing class for sophomores, the most hated class in the school and that keeps me humble. 

Those kids love to take notes, too. They draw marijuana leaves on their notebooks: "Billy Idol is my idol." 

In my classes, I always let my kids sit wherever they want to sit, as long as they don't create any problems. And you know what? The second day of class they pick a seat and they never move again. And then I put my seating chart together (Laughter) and they think that, "Wow, in Mr. Doud's class, we get to sit wherever we want to sit." 

But I learn a lot about them from where they choose to sit: what peer group they choose to identify with, who they see themselves relating to. And you've got … you know, you've got your Vogue type of girls [who] rush out, get the latest edition, that'll throw out the wardrobe if it's no longer current. [You've] got the cool jocks, you know, like "Cool man, real cool." You got, and where I come from in rural Minnesota, you've got the farmers from the class, FFA jackets, FFA hats on (Laughter), Skoal cans in the back pockets, you know. (Laughter). They've driven to class in their pickup trucks with the gun rack in the back, listening to Hank Williams, Jr. music, you know. All different types. 

And then there are people like Shawn, who doesn't fit in anywhere. He always sits by himself. He never talks to anybody else in the class, never relates. When I call on him to read in class, he gets bright red. When I go over by his desk to see how he's doing on his work, you can just feel the wall come up, the tension come up. Now here he is, coming down the hall. It's Friday, [the] last hour of the day. The party animals have just entered the room. 

Here comes Shawn. I'm on hall duty. "Hi, Shawn." "Hi." "How're you doin'?" "-kay." "Hey, what are you gonna do this weekend?" And he stopped and he looked me right in the eye. He says, "I'm gonna see my mom." "Well, don't you get to see your mom very often?" "No, I haven't seen her in nine years. She deserted us." And then he walks on by. And all of a sudden, the lesson I have planned on split infinitives (Laughter) seems just a little less significant. 

And I think back to my first year as a teacher where I was gung-ho academically – those kids were going to learn everything I had just learned in college. I found out some of them didn't care about Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, or John Steinbeck's regionalism. 

And I was teaching [a] contemporary short story class and I gave journal assignments. Every day, the kids had to write. They had to write; they had to write. And then I'd collect them and I'd read what they'd written. They were supposed to react to the short stories we'd written and oh, they didn't understand these stories at all. But there was this one girl in particular; she was terrible. She never wrote anything, just a sentence. I tried talking to her, but the walls came up. I sent the referrals home, hoping her parents would give her a good kick in the pants, but it just made the communication all that much more difficult. 

And finally, at the end of six weeks, mid-trimester time, I said, "Today I'm gonna let you write about whatever you want to write about. Why don't you write about something you think that I should know about you? The only requirement is, is that you write all hour. I'm not going to grade these, but you have to do them if you want to get a mid-trimester grade. You have to write all hour." See, I was really behind in correcting my papers and I needed to catch up. (Laughter) 

And I collected those journals that night and I went out to eat at Taco Town, had an order of spaghetti, half a chicken, went to the football game. [I] went home from the football game, made a big, you know, bowl of butter-brickle ice cream, sat down and started to read journals. And I came to this girl's. 

John: You're listening to Focus on the Family and Teacher of the Year, Guy Doud. And we'll have this message available for you on CD or as an audio download, with extra content. Or you can watch Guy's complete telling of this story on DVD. Call for details. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or you'll find these and more at Let's go ahead and return now to Guy Doud. 

Guy: And she started in. She says, "Mr. Doud, I know you don't like me because I'm dumb, but I'm not as dumb as you think I am. You see, last summer I had an abortion." 

And then, she went on to tell me the whole tale, how she'd gotten pregnant, how she'd wanted to get married, how her parents wouldn't allow her; she wasn't old enough, how they … she was forced into this abortion situation, so to speak, how she ran away from home. How her parents wouldn't let her see her boyfriend. 

And she started listing all these means and methods she'd considered using for taking her own life. And I'm sitting there on a Friday night. And I'm reading this journal and I think, "My word, for six weeks this girl's been sitting three feet away from me and I've been more interested in Flannery O'Connor's Southern Gothic style and trying to shove it down her throat than I really ever have been about her." 

And it reconfirmed something for me, that there's something even more important than reading and writing and arithmetic, something even more important than computer literacy. I teach human beings and as a Christian, I have a responsibility. I remember back to my college days, when one day during final exams, I was bummed out. I'd been up for nights on end and felt the pressure to get good grades. And I took off and what I did when I felt that way is, I would eat. I went downtown to Fargo, North Dakota, sat in a restaurant right on Main Street and oh, I ordered the biggest breakfast you could find and I started to eat.

And as I was eating, along came these two people that had to be the grossest-looking people I'd ever seen in my whole life. They must have been let out of the day center or something, just deformed faces. And they came into the restaurant and they ended up sitting right next to me. And they were turning me off. And I couldn't stand looking at them. I know it's a terrible way to feel, but I felt that way; I can't deny it. 

And not long after, along the street came this mother with her little daughter--beautiful, blonde-haired little girl. And they came into the restaurant and this deformed-looking old lady with this huge cauliflower ear and these growths on her face, she said, "Ah, look at that beautiful little girl." 

And the old lady said, "Come here, Honey; come here. Give me a kiss." I wanted to jump out of my seat. I wanted to say, "How could you ask her to kiss that?" And the little girl looked up at her mommy and her mommy smiled at her and the little girl went over to this lady and she put her hands right on her face and she leaned up to her and kissed her. And then she backed up and she said, "Jesus loves you!" 

And I went back to my dorm room and my roommate had a poster on the wall of this old drunken bum in the gutter--his flask empty, passed out--drunken old bum. And the poster read, "You love Jesus Christ only as much as the person you love the least." 

And here comes Mr. Card's ball…and, boy, he threw it hard, right into my gut and I caught it! (Laughter) I didn't get very far with it after I caught it. (Laughter) It's just lucky for those other kids it was touch football. (Laughter and Applause) 

I'm sitting in school after the bell has rung. It's about 5:15. [I'm] anxious to get home and … or go out to Taco Town and have some spaghetti and chicken and get to the football game. And I look up at my door and there's Chris, No. 85. My first year as a teacher and here stands No. 85 with his football jersey on. "Hey, Chris, what are you still doing here?" "Oh, I had to pick up some books." 

And he kind of stood there and shifted his weight back and forth from foot to foot. He says, "You know, tonight is Parents' Night." He says, "At half time they have all the senior football players go out in the field and then they invite their parents to come down on the field and stand behind them. And well, I don't know if you know this or not, but you know, my folks are divorced. My dad lives in California and my mom, well, she's out of town. 

"And the coach said that if our parents couldn't be with us, that we should ask somebody that, well, we respect. And I was gonna ask you sooner, but, hey, if you can't be at the game, that's okay." I said, "Well, I'm gonna be at the game." I said, "I'd be very, very proud to stand up with you." 

Then he sat down on the edge of the desk and he says, "You know, I haven't gotten into the game yet this year." I said, "Oh." I said, "What was it a couple of weeks ago they introduced you?" He said, "Yeah, I was Scout Team Player of the Week." I said, "Yeah, what does that mean, anyhow?" He said, "Well, we run the opposition's offense and our defense beats up on us." (Laughter) I said, "Oh." I said, "Well, I'm sure you'll get into the game tonight." 

And I went to that game, sat up there in the stands, cheered, kept watching No. 85, who was cheerin', patting people on the butt as they came back in from the field, but who, as of yet, hadn't gotten into the game. Half time expired and I went out and was introduced and stood behind No. 85. And I remember, as I stood there, I prayed that should I ever have children someday, I just prayed that they'd never have to have substitute parents. 

And the third quarter started. We had about a 17-point lead. No. 85 still hadn't gotten into the game. We were still playing our good players, our best players, our starting players on both defense, offense, defense offense. They were going both ways. Some 80 guys dressed for the football game and we had about 14 or 15 who were playing. 

Now, hey, I'm not questioning anybody's coaching decisions, but by the fourth quarter (Laughter), I was standing up (yelling), "Put No. 85 into the game." (Laughter and Applause) 

And as the clock ran down and we won by 20 points and No. 85 hadn't made it into the game, I might as well have been his parent, 'cause I sat there with big tears in my eyes. 

And on Monday I didn't know what I was gonna say to Chris and here I am out on hall duty and here he comes. I said, "Well, you guys sure whipped 'em." He says, "Yeah." He says, "You know, I didn't think I was that bad, if you put me in the game with two minutes left, that I would have blown a 20-point lead." (Laughter)

But he hadn't missed a practice. He spent more time in the weight room than anybody else. And yet, somebody made the decision he wasn't good enough for the real game and it was a lesson that devastated this kid. 

And you know, kids face that all the time in school, whether it's private [or] public. And oh, they're lessons that are unavoidable, but sometimes, they're the lessons that are either going to make or break a kid. And oh, how we need to be sensitive to those lessons. 

I came to school; I learned I was fat. I never had really realized what that meant till I started school. My whole family was big. But we picked sides for kickball, I was always picked last. And somehow I took it to mean not only that I wasn't any good at kickball, but I wasn't any good. [We] made gingerbread men--tear out pieces of construction paper and put the glue and make a gingerbread man. Then the teacher takes the gingerbread men and puts them up on the bulletin board, but mine didn't make it up on the bulletin board. 

And somehow I took that to mean not only that I wasn't any good at making gingerbread men, but I wasn't any good. And school taught me more and more and more lessons like that. (Music) 


John: We're going to have to break in as we come to the end of today's edition of Focus on the Family. But you're gonna hear more next time from our guest, Guy Doud. 

Jim: Boy, John, I can really relate. I can feel the pain in Guy Doud's voice and especially that football player. I can relate to that; Chris, #85, who didn't have anyone to be there on Parent's Night. I played for four years of high school football and every time Dad's Night came around at our school it became an anxious moment for me. You know, who's gonna come out. Did I talk to somebody ahead of time? I think only one year I had my brother come out. I knew I was one of the few guys that would stand on that field all alone, just like, kinda that emotion you hear in Guy Doud's voice. Even though I was the starting quarterback, and I'd stand there feeling absolutely empty and incompetent because all my teammates were standing there with their dads, and huggin' each other. And there I was, standing there with nobody next to me. It was a sad time for me and it still brings some tears to my eyes. An emptiness. 

John: Well that, that's a pain that so many children today can relate to. They're in that situation, Jim. And, it's even more prevalent today than it was back when you were growing up. 

Jim: And I would say this, too. I didn't have anything against having Dad's Night. That was the wonderful part of it 'cause I liked seeing that, so I didn't want to petition the school to get rid of Dad's Night because I didn't have a dad. I just longed for it. And, I would never want to take the moment away 'cause it's a very special moment between a father and a son; a stepdad and his son, to be out there together celebrating the ability to be doin' it. 

A lot of young people today are lonely like I was for all kinds of reasons, not just the loss of a parent. And we want to encourage you, as their parents, not to minimize the stresses that your children are experiencing. Particularly in those teen years which nowadays seems to start around sixth grade. 

Kids are growin' up fast. I want to encourage you today to really hug your children. Before they go off to school, hug 'em. When they come home, hug them. Tell them you love them and you're proud of them. And even if they roll their eyes, or shrug it off, remember this: it makes a difference in their hearts. 

And if you work with kids, look for that isolated child who's sitting off, maybe with a little distance there from the rest of the crowd. They may pull back because they don't know how to handle positive attention. They just don't know to be around people. I remember feeling that way. I've lacked confidence. When a teacher or coach would put their arm around me I thought, "Okay. What does this person want from me?" 

And yet, you know what? Press through that awkwardness and let that child know you care about them, and you're willing to help them and be there for them and make a difference in their life.

If you're thinking of a teacher or a coach who's made an impact on your Iife, or who might need some inspiration from this presentation of Guy Doud, can I highly recommend the DVD of his complete story called, Molder of Dreams. It'll touch your heart, and if you can help Focus with a gift of any amount, I wanna say "Thank you" by providing that DVD to you. 

John: Our number here is 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or you can see details about Molder of Dreams, the DVD, at

Well, join us tomorrow as Guy shares some memories of a favorite teacher who trusted him to catch a pass. 


Guy: And here comes Mr. Card's ball…and, boy, he threw it hard, right into my gut and I caught it! (Laughter) I didn't get very far with it after I caught it. (Laughter) It's just lucky for those other kids it was touch football. (Laughter and Applause) 

End of Teaser 

John: That's next time on Focus on the Family. Thanks so much for listening. I'm John Fuller. Join us again tomorrow as we once again help you and your family thrive.

  • Featured MP3

    Free Resource of the Month: 40th Anniversary Collection

    Focus on the Family

    This special 40th anniversary collection contains some of our most popular broadcasts with Guy Doud, Mike Adkins, Patricia Ashley, Cynthia Tobias and Ray Vander Laan.

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    Molder of Dreams

    President Ronald Reagan read this poem to Guy Doud when he received the 1986 National Teacher of the Year for the United States of America award.

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Guy Doud

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As a high school language arts teacher in Brainerd, Minn., Guy Doud received the prestigious National Teacher of the Year award in 1986. Honored at a White House ceremony by President Ronald Reagan, Doud gained national attention and has since become a highly popular motivational speaker. He has also authored several books including the best-selling Molder of Dreams. Guy has four children and resides in Baxter, Minn.

In recent months, Guy has been suffering from several difficult medical problems. Please consider sending him a note of encouragement via his website,