Principal answers call of the wild

May 23, 2000|By JOSH POLTILOVE

On his travels he's been surrounded by salmon-hungry Kodiak bears. He's narrowly avoided patches of Alaskan quicksand. He's seen lions, cheetahs, warthogs and giant walruses.

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Now Pangborn Elementary School Principal Joe Byers is about to end his career in education to follow another path that will involve a lot of travel.

Byers, 52, will retire June 30 in order to have more time to devote to traveling, writing and taking photographs for hunting and fishing magazines such as Bow Master, Hunting the Country and Heartland U.S.A.

"The things that I'm doing would be wonderful if I was 30," said Byers, who will be replaced by Dr. Barbara Stauffer, principal at Hancock Elementary School. "I'm not worried about it, but the thought crosses my mind that this is what young guys should be doing, not folks in a second career."


His interest in the second career began with his father. Raised to believe hunting was a part of life, Byers spent much of his childhood doing just that.

About 15 years ago, Byers shot a large buck, took a photo of it and wrote an article about the experience. When his material was published, he realized how much fun it would be to do that sort of thing for a living.

He has traveled across four continents, including Africa and Australia. He spends time during the summer and on weekends working on articles and often brings back slides to share with students.

"I come from a family of teachers. My wife's a teacher, my mother, my father, my aunts and uncles, my sister," said Byers, a Hagerstown native who has been at Pangborn for 11 years.

"If there's such thing as a teaching instinct, that's where it comes from. Most of what I write about is informative. I think a teaching lesson is a good format for a magazine article."

Art teacher Ann Grove said Byers shares the details of his trips with students, who appreciate his insights.

"He brings back a lot of things from the different places he's been, and he shares them with the kids and the teachers, and I think that adds a lot to the school," Grove said.

Byers hopes to contribute just as much to his second career.

"A lot of people, when they get to retiring age, say, 'I'm burned out.' I still have fun every day at Pangborn," Byers said.

"I'm going to miss this place a great deal, but I have a chance in life and I want to take that chance."

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