Jacque Pendarves, David Wood and John Moore all agreed that Monday’s “Doctorate of Experience Commencement” ceremony held in their honor was not a retirement party. Though all have passed the 40 year mark while teaching at Lake Highlands High, they’re still ready for more.
“I enjoy teaching so much, and I don’t know what I’ll do afterwards,” Pendarves told me. “I’ll be here for a while.”
You may see my photos from the reception here.
All three teach courses considered challenging – even intimidating – to many students who hear the hallway scuttlebutt and consider carefully before they enroll.
“We tell the kids it’s probably going to be more difficult than what they’re accustomed to, but they usually get the hang of it,” said Pendarves, who teaches advanced placement human geography and world geography to freshmen. “They learn to manage their time, though it may take a good six weeks before that kicks in, and then they enjoy it. And the class is relevant to what’s going on around the world.”
Once the students are successful, Pendarves is there to pat them on the back.
“We celebrate them and give them lots of praises,” she said. “I feel like I’ve shown them they are capable of almost anything.”
Moore teaches architectural drawing, engineering graphics and web design, part of the school’s career and technology education (CATE) program of electives.
“You don’t have to come in with any specific skills. We start at level zero,” Moore said. “But you have to have a desire and an interest in it to be successful. These kids have a talent for creating something. They don’t want to go to work and sit at a desk all day and push numbers around. They want to see results of their efforts. They want to see a building or a plane or a webpage they’ve helped design.”
Many go on to college, which he strongly encourages, but his courses prepare students who go straight to careers, which can be interesting – and lucrative.
“My students can get jobs as CAD designers or web developers. I had a student whose mom was a teacher and dad was a firefighter. He graduated and got a job making more than $90,000 per year – more than both his parents’ salary combined.”
Wood, who teaches AP English literature to freshmen and seniors, is notorious for pushing students to throw out excuses and create their best possible work.
“Sometimes it’s an act, yes,” Wood said of his gruff exterior, “but whatever works, works. I want them to understand that the subject matter I teach I take very seriously, and there are certain academic behaviors that you’ve got to get down in order to be successful in high school or college. It’s a matter of self-discipline. I tell them I’ll be here when they are ready to learn. I want them to know I respect them enough to tell the truth.”
As they greeted returning students, parents and teachers at the reception, all three noted big changes at LHHS over the past 40 years.
“A lot of it has been technology,” said Pendarves. “When I first started teaching, teachers didn’t have computers in the classroom. I remember going to the library to put my gradebook into the computer – that was a challenge for me.” Each LHHS student today is issued their own Chromebook laptop.
“We have become a very diversified group, with over 50 countries represented,” said Moore. “We have people here from all over the planet. Culturally, there’s so much to learn. Everybody learns from everybody.”
“I graduated from a segregated high school – Paschal in Fort Worth – and I was proud to teach here because it was integrated, and students were integrated into the community. That was a great source of pride to me. It showed me this was a healthy community that saw the value in every individual. Since then it’s become increasingly integrated with all different kinds of ethnicities, and that’s great, too.”
In 2006, Wood helped found the Wild for Cats academic booster club, which recruits donations from the community and matches them with a “wish list” from teachers and staff. He’s been successful encouraging 100% of faculty to donate.
“In Lake Highlands and all public schools we are so terribly underfunded. As long as we have this same funding system, we’ll always be underfunded. I live here and I invest in my school and I lead by example. The thing about Wild for Cats is we can spend on what teachers and staff want to spend it on – things we see as a priority.”
You may donate to Wild for Cats here.