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Lifelong passion for learning

Gene Dufoe
Gene Dufoe
The Republic | azcentral.comMon Nov 18, 2013 10:15 AM

Retired engineer and Mesa resident Gene Dufoe rarely misses a Mesa Public Schools governing board meeting. He is a volunteer education adviser to the Red Mountain Tea Party and similar groups.

Dufoe, 73, has two sons and a daughter with wife Ellen and has have lived in Mesa for 27 years. He spent most of his career at McDonnell Douglas/Boeing, designing manned and unmanned spacecraft for the Air Force and NASA. Since retiring he has volunteered at the Mesa Public Schools Flight Center teaching fifth-graders about helicopters, has served on the school district’s facilities planning committee and is chairman of the Boeing Retirement Advisory Committee.

His bachelor of science in aerospace engineering is from Iowa State University and his MBA is from the University of Southern California. Dufoe was working on a doctorate in finance when a stroke cut short his studies.

He recently agreed to an Internet interview with the Mesa Republic.

Question: You attend just about every Mesa Public Schools governing board meeting. Why do you attend so many meetings?

Answer: I always have been interested in public education and I advise several tea parties of significant school happenings. I have been attending governing board meetings for four years.

Q: What is the most interesting issue MPS is dealing with these days, in your opinion?

A: The move to technology.

Q: What do you believe is the most pressing issue in education in general right now?

A: The lack of personal responsibility in some students. I believe that education is a two-way street of the teacher educating and student taking the personal responsibility to learn.

Q: Do you recall a favorite teacher from high school?

A: Mr. Maas was an excellent English teacher. He went on to teach in a much larger school. He was well-schooled, had an easy grasp of discipline, and had an easy-to-communicate style about him. I don't remember his ever having a troublesome student. Mr. Maas was an MP in Europe during World War II. At the 50th-year reunion of my high-school graduation, Mr. Maas was our guest of honor.

Q: Please name your all-time favorite film about education or a teacher.

A: “Stand and Deliver” is a 1988 movie which was based on the true story of Jaime A. Escalante, a Bolivian educator well known for teaching students calculus from 1974 to 1991. He was a new teacher at James A. Garfield High School in east Los Angeles. His determination to change the system and challenge the students to a higher level of excellence led to his being able to win over the attention of the students. His implementing innovative teaching techniques led to transforming even the most troublesome teens into dedicated students.

Escalante developed a program in which his students can rise to pass AP calculus by their senior year. After receiving their scores from that exam, they find that all of them have passed, a feat done by few in California. The Educational Testing Service called into question the validity of their scores. Outraged by the implication of cheating, Escalante felt that the racial and economic status of the students had caused the ETS to doubt their intelligence. In order to prove their mathematical abilities to the school, to the ETS, and to the nation, the students agreed to retake the test at the end of the summer, months after their last class.

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