Northcut says goodbye after 37 years

Northcut poses for a photo with Latundan bananas, also known as Apple Bananas, in the greenhouse.
Northcut poses for a photo with Latundan bananas, also known as Apple Bananas, in the greenhouse.

If there is one word to describe Dan Northcut ’81, it’s passion. Whether it’s teaching earth sciences, taking care of the greenhouse or leading the gardening club; Dan Northcut goes all in.

For the past 37 years, Northcut has stood as an example of what it means to not only be a great teacher but a great leader and Marksman.

Though Northcut is retiring at the end of this year, his legacy will continue to live on for years to come.One testament to Northcut’s extraordinary longevity is his teaching across generations. In fact, this year Northcut is teaching senior Benjamin Erwin, the son of Johnathan Erwin whom Northcut taught in his first year at the school.
“It’s an incredible coincidence,” Northcut said. “When you achieve 30 plus years of teaching you start getting your old students’ kids and it’s fun. It automatically gives you and the student a bit of a bond.”
This bond extends beyond the teacher and student. For Benjamin Erwin, having a teacher who once taught his father has given him and his dad a chance to forge a deeper connection.
“It’s a very cool experience,” Benjamin Erwin said. “It’s a neat way in which (my dad and I) can talk about how St. Mark’s has changed, but also how things have stayed the same. For example, Mr. Northcut — I’ll go home and tell him a Mr. Northcut story, and he would say something like ‘He’s still doing that? That’s awesome.’”
Throughout his time here, Northcut has involved himself in various parts of campus. Even before he began teaching at the school, Northcut had already become an integral part of the community.
“My sophomore year I started working in the clerical office,” Northcut said. “Then, I worked in the janitorial office after school for a long time. In the summer, I also worked different jobs here, and I went on Pecos trips throughout my college years.”
Despite his many years working at the school, Northcut’s first hands-on experience with students was just down the road as the fencing coach for Episcopal School of Dallas. While he was grateful to ESD for offering him his first real opportunity, his heart remained with the walls of his alma mater.
“I was already involved in our wilderness program for several years when I was an alum,” Northcut said. “I wanted to come back and it was really a natural fit.”
Although the position seemed to be the perfect fit, Mr. Northcut quickly discovered that it also came with a significant amount of pressure. He soon realized that teaching required much more energy than he had initially anticipated.
“I was busy all the time,” Northcut said. “I was in the classroom, going on Middle School campouts and coaching both Middle and Upper School fencing. I would come to school in the dark and go home in the dark. It was an all-consuming job.”
In his early years, Northcut quickly came to understand that for nine months of the year, his life was dominated by his job. Teaching became more than just a profession. It became a way of life.
“You have a responsibility to be your very best for the students,” Northcut said. “You have to be prepared and on time every day. There is no leeway. I’ll have friends come in to take over my classes as guest speakers and by the end of the day, they are exhausted.”
While Northcut has continued to put his full effort into teaching and mentoring his students, the mentorship has not been one-sided. Northcut has also learned many valuable lessons from his students as well.
“One thing about teaching at St. Mark’s is that we have very smart kids,” Northcut said. “There are so many different personalities and certain ways that kids will approach their work. Early on, I used to have a set notion of this kid is extra smart and this kid is a certain way. Sometimes you would get students early on and wonder if he’s going to make it. Then you have them three years later and things have clicked and he’s moving. It happened like that more times than not.”
This exchange of lessons is what Northcut cherishes most about his job. As he looks forward to new opportunities, he knows he will deeply miss the daily interactions with his students.
“That is the joy of teaching,” Northcut said. “Part of the joy is really seeing them understand what you are trying to teach and the other part is having daily conversations and learning more about each student that walks these halls.”

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