‘Craziest’ teacher bows out
In his final year at Park City High School (PCHS), Tony Winterer received one of his greatest compliments; students voted him their craziest teacher. For his part, in his 36th year of education, Winterer took the award in stride saying that at his age one learns to let go and grasp only the important things.
Winterer’s career in education began far from Park City in Kayenta, Ariz. Although raised in Salt Lake City and educated at Utah State University, Winterer took the job in Kayenta just after he received his teaching credentials. At the time he was not sure that education was meant as his path, but with a degree in environmental studies, a tough field to break through, it seemed like a good opportunity.
Kayenta a city in the heart of the Navajo Reservation, the largest reservation in the country, presented many challenges to the young Winterer. For the first time in his life, he said, he was the minority. With the exception of a few Hopi students, Winterer found himself as one of very few people who was not Navajo. As a teacher, he also had to deal with a high degree of alcohol abuse among students.
In 1980, after the better part of a decade in Kayenta, Winterer was rewarded with a sabbatical and chose to use that time to earn another degree, this one in Native American education. He returned with his wife to Salt Lake City to study at the University of Utah where he cranked out units in record pace. Degree in hand, Winterer returned to Kayenta for several years to satisfy the terms of his sabbatical and contract. His new credentials and experience allowed him to take the role of Dean of Students. As Dean, he said, he found his name written around the school in interesting places.
A few years later, Winterer was offered the principal’s post at a school in Salmon, Idaho. A life-long hunter, he could not pass up the chance to work in an area replete with so many mountains and rivers. He moved his family to Salmon and said that he enjoyed the experience, but that the political nature of his role as principal eventually wore on him. As much as he enjoyed the students and working with the faculty, after three years, Winterer decided that he would rather continue his work in education elsewhere.
Although he received several offers from schools, including another Salt Lake City-area school and a principal position for a Blackfeet Native American school, Winterer chose to return to teaching at Park City High School. Principal Jack Dozier called him at four in the morning and offered him the job with his trademark gravelly voice. Although Winterer was familiar with Park City after spending so many years in Utah, it was still a difficult choice for him to make. All the same, he eventually said yes to Dozier and began to teach human anatomy, biology and environmental science at PCHS in 1986.
Over the course of his 22-year tenure at PCHS, Winterer said that he has had many highlights, but a few of his favorites took place in his last year. At a talent show in the Eccles he performed a rendition of John Prine’s "That’s the Way the World Turns" with student accompaniment. Later, as he gave his baccalaureate speech, a tremendous honor for any instructor, he sang another Prine stand-by "Everything is Cool" before leading the entire audience in Native American prayer.
He said that nothing compares with the satisfaction that he receives when he bumps into a former student who seems genuinely glad to see him, but in retirement, he has no plans to visit the school. "(If I do go) it’ll be in full camo. You’ll never notice me because I move like the wind in the darkness," he told his students.
When not gliding through the high school, Winterer plans to use his retirement to pursue his multitude of hobbies. He will remain in Park City to hunt and enjoy the outdoors. He also will continue his involvement in several historical groups and keep his wife company as she will not retire for several more years.
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