Longtime sub says students keep him young

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Glenn Young at Kalispell Middle School on Friday, August 30, in Kalispell. Young is entering his 15th year as a substitute teacher. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

There rarely are groans or goofing off when Glenn Young is the substitute teacher. 

Young greets students with a smile and peppers the day’s lessons with his crowd-pleasing jokes and stories.

“I lift them up, build them up any way I can,” Young said.

When it comes to his students, Young seems to abide by the Golden Rule.

“Treat them as young people with dignity, respect and things reciprocate. The kids are very good, kind and generous to me,” Young said. “You can order, command, threaten, that kind of thing with the kids — ‘you do that, here is a detention, shape up!’ —Now how does that go over?”

Young has lived in Colorado, Oregon and California, served in the Army, married his high school sweetheart, Judy, raised three sons, worked in construction, sold encyclopedias, went on a mission trip to Hawaii, built churches in Japan and in February, underwent heart surgery. 

Yet no matter where life takes, him he gravitates back to the classroom. 

Young is in his 15th year as a substitute teacher. He primarily subs at Flathead and Glacier high schools and Kalispell Middle School, where he lives within walking distance. 

The 76-year-old said the greatest thing students do is keep him from getting “old in his thinking.

“How do I define old in my thinking? Well, the way old people — well some old crotchety people — get,” Young said. “Oh, you know, older people [and] their attitudes toward — against — young people. I don’t want to be that way.”

Young makes an effort to be involved in students’ lives by attending music concerts, plays, sports games and many other events. 

“My wife and I attend as many as possible,” he said.

During an interview Aug. 30 in the Kalispell Middle School library, Young wore a sweater showcasing both Glacier and Flathead colors to show equal pride. Young knows many people who come into the library.

“Rudy,” Young said, waving to a middle school tutor.

The two chat for a minute before Young returns to the interview. Some students say hello.

“Rapport with teachers and students is important,” Young said.

Young’s teaching career began in 1965 in a one-room schoolhouse near Troy, up the Yaak River. After a year he went on to teach seventh and eighth grade for six more years in a rural schools around the Flathead Valley, such as Helena Flats and Creston, before he decided to try construction.

“I had some fabulous students,” Young said.

Even while working construction, he continued teaching as a substitute during the winter. Interspersed throughout his career in education and construction, he sold World Book Encyclopedias to area schools and eventually became a district manager in 1987.

“The experiences and skills I built up at one time is very, very valuable at a later part in my life,” Young said.

Those skills would become useful when he and his wife served with Youth With a Mission in Kona, Hawaii, in 1989. 

Their one problem was getting enough money for airplane tickets.

“We were talking, thinking and praying when and where,” Young said. 

Then they entered and won a contest held at The Daily Inter Lake that would become their golden ticket.

“We won a round trip for two people to Hawaii,” Young said.

For three months they worked in a school and spent another three working on construction projects.

When the outreach was over, a fellow mission worker invited them to continue on with him in Japan to help build two churches.

“We built a church in Kyushu and I was part of the team that went to Shizuoka City, that’s where Mount Fuji is, so on a clear day I could look up and see Mount Fuji,” Young said.

The couple lived in Japan for about four years after he was hired to teach English composition and conversation at a girl’s school. 

“We adopted many of the girls as our ‘Japanese daughters,’” Young said and showed a printout of a Facebook message from a former student expressing her appreciation of him as a teacher.

These lifelong friendships with students and colleagues bring Young joy. He then showed a thank-you card from a Kalispell student.

“These are some of the things that make teaching so wonderful. It makes you keep wanting to come back,” Young said. 

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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