By Ross Moore
The Hartwell Sun
On a recent Friday morning, Hart County High School was handing out awards during an annual ceremony. There was the normal mumble of the crowd inside the gym until principal Billy Wood made an announcement.
A shout rang out and the crowd immediately stood up in a standing ovation.
It was as if Wood had announced school was out three weeks early.
But it was the announcement of the teacher of the year, chosen by the faculty – Diane Doehla.
“It was overwhelming,” Doehla said during an interview last week. “It [the standing ovation] is the thing I will cherish most. It makes all the tough days worthwhile.” It was Doehla’s second time to win the award and it will be her last.
Doehla is retiring after 30 years of teaching.
Excluding the standing ovation, it is still clear that she will be missed.
In the span of about an hour after school, during supervised study, Doehla signed someone’s yearbook.
Senior Kane Beard left the room saying, “Goodbye Mrs. Doehla, I love you.”
And, senior Shavoyae Brown put his arm around her while they were walking down the hall and said, “We’re going to miss each other aren’t we?”
“Yes,” she said, “but I will be reading about you in the papers.”
Doehla has been teaching since the day she left the University of Georgia. She taught at Cherokee County Middle School for five years and sought a job at a high school, saw Hart County had an opening, and has worked here for 25 years.
Doehla taught government, economics, political science, U.S. history, world history and geography. She also taught remedial math last semester.
She taught economics for the past 15 years. She teaches the students by using a stock market simulation. Students are given $25,000 each and work with a partner. She teaches them how to read stock charts and they invest their money. She delivers investment lectures, teaches them which stocks are safe and the significance of life insurance.
She tries to give them a clear understanding of what a 401K is before they get thrown into their first job, she said.
“It’s really fun teaching the class because students
don’t have any information about the subject before they enter my class,” she said. “I try to teach them how every dollar affects the community, and fortunately they like the class.”
Doehla invests in the stock market herself. When asked how well she has done, she said, “I’m retiring, aren’t I?”
Despite the love Doehla has received at the high school, she said she is looking forward to retirement, when she is free to do whatever she wants.
She has a trip planned to Alaska in August, just to “check it out,” she said. “I want to see Mount McKinley. I’m tired of looking at it in social studies books.”
She also has a beach house at Cape Fear, the southernmost cape in North Carolina.
She lives across the road from the beach, but said Hurricane Floyd “really improved my view.”
There, she said she reads her business magazines and mystery books, such as Jeffrey Archer’s, “Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less,” her favorite. She fishes and lets her white German shepherd, L.C., roam free.
“It’s a great place to renew one’s soul,” she said.
Doehla agreed that the beach house also helps heal the wounds caused by her husband’s illness and death.
Rick Doehla was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1994. His illness was “without remission,” or did not improve, and he was bedridden for three years until his death.
During Rick’s sickness, a friend bought him the white German shepherd. He called the dog “Hey Cutie,” and they shortened it to H.C. Rick requested that the dog not be boarded when they went on vacations. She bought her house in North Carolina shortly after his death.
“I think whenever you lose someone you love and get beyond the shock, you see how important human relationships are and how insignificant everything else is,” she said.
Doehla said she was always close to her students, but that the experience might have made her more patient.
“You just don’t sweat the small stuff when you deal with the big stuff,” she said.
Now, after dealing with the big stuff, investing her money wisely, teaching for 30 years and having more than 900 students shout and cheer for her, Doehla can relax in retirement.
“I might even go back to school,” she said. “Who knows?”
Copyright © 2003, The Hartwell Sun