Almanac

Schools - July 7, 2010

Math, science teacher Bill Dolyniuk retires after 29 years at Woodside School

by Kate Daly

After teaching children for three decades, Bill Dolyniuk philosophizes about the school cycle: "One of the big appeals to education is there's always a start, an end, and a new start."

Now that he is retiring, he is looking forward, rather than back, at all the possibilities a new beginning will bring.

Woodside School's graduation on June 11 marked his last as a teacher there for 29 years.

A groundswell of current and former students reached out to him by posting tributes on the wall of his Facebook page, and writing letters. "Mr. D" — as students affectionately call him — figures he has taught a total of about 1,800 children. And thanks to the Internet, he's in touch with many of them.

Mr. Dolyniuk started out as a custodian at an elementary school in Hayward, where he met a teacher, Norine, and "swept her off her feet," he jokes. She inspired him to become a teacher, too.

With a bachelor's degree in physical geography from U.C. Berkeley, he went on to earn a teaching credential, and then worked at schools in Hayward, San Leandro, Oakland and Healdsburg, before he and Norine got married.

During his honeymoon, he received a call from then-superintendent of the Woodside School District, the late George Sellman, asking him to come for an interview. That was the only job Mr. Dolyniuk had applied for, and when he drove in from his home in the East Bay, his first impression was "the place looked abandoned. The school was pretty pathetic then with paint peeling everywhere." Now, he says, "It's really a beautiful campus."

As for today's students versus his earlier students, he says "they're better prepared and study harder. What kids know now is vastly superior because they have more resources via the media."

Over the years, he has primarily taught life and physical sciences and algebra to middle schoolers. He also coached basketball, football and cross-country; has led 24 trips to Yosemite and 22 trips to Washington, D.C.; and taken 18 groups of students to the state science fair.

Mr. Dolyniuk is particularly proud of former student Bryce Cronkite-Ratcliff for winning the first prize in the fair, but says he is also honored that former student Renee Georgakas just stopped by to get advice as she embarks on a new career as a science teacher.

Mr. Dolyniuk has served as past president, vice president and treasurer of the California Teachers' Association. He has also worked as a photographer, a role that included taking individual pictures of all the eighth-graders.

"Every year the highlight is watching the eighth-graders graduate," he notes. "We have such a special ceremony, and listening to them talk about their experiences here and expectations for high school is very special to me."

Three days after his last Woodside graduation, he planned to continue on at the Exploratorium's New Teacher Institute in San Francisco as a coach and mentor to other science teachers.

Other than that, Mr. Dolyniuk plans to celebrate this fall by taking a cruise with his wife from Athens to Barcelona, then head to the Galapagos next year. They also intend to spend more time at their second home in Arnold, and play "lots of golf."

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