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Once a teacher, always a teacher - Distad helping tech students

May 24, 2006|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note: There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like ...

Ed Distad

Age: 64

Occupation: Retired school teacher

Hometown: Bethesda, Md.

Where would you see Distad? Once a teacher, always a teacher. Distad taught math for 41 years, 31 of those years in Montgomery County, Md. He and his wife, Bonnie, moved to Washington County in 1973, and he commuted to work.

In 1997, he "retired," then took a part-time job teaching math at Washington County Technical High School.

Even after leaving that job in 2005, what Distad refers to as his "official" retirement, he made the rounds of the math classes at the technical high school in the fall, offering to tutor any students who needed additional help with math.


Distad offered to be available Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. in the school cafeteria, and has had three "regulars" this school year and about a dozen other students who pop in occasionally for help. He said he can count on 17-year-old juniors Amanda Bachtell, who is studying cosmetology, and Jerome Collier, a student in collision repair, to show up for most sessions.

"If I don't understand it, I just come to him," Jerome said.

"Like if I don't understand it, he'll explain it in a different way, so I do understand," Amanda said. "Now I have courage to ask questions in class."

Distad plans to continue tutoring at the technical high school next year. He also substitutes for his son, who is a math teacher and soccer coach at Boonsboro High School.

"I like working with kids," said Distad, who also has been a Big Brother since 1986. "I tell people that the nice thing about Big Brothers is that I get to play."

Distad has had six different Little Brothers, three of them for five years or more. He said being a Big Brother inspires him to do activities he might not do on his own, such as doing the Bay Bridge Walk recently with his current Little Brother.

Other activities Distad and his Little Brothers have done include going to the movies, flying kites, going camping and to the beach. He said there is a real need for Big Brothers to volunteer with the program.

Distad's idea of retirement is a long list of volunteer activities that allows him to set his own schedule, giving him time for regular workouts at the Hagerstown YMCA.

"I try very hard not to act my age," Distad said.

Distad looks forward to his involvement as a REACH board member and volunteer. He works with crisis intervention on a weekly basis, and drives people to doctor's appointments through REACH's Faith in Action program.

Distad estimates he spent 200 hours total working with the Cold Weather Shelter this season, 120 of those hours with the guests. He also is an active member of Haven Lutheran Church, and gives blood regularly through the American Red Cross.

A graduate of Concordia College in Minnesota, Distad spent summers working in Yellowstone National Park while he was in college. He met his wife, who is a nurse, at Yellowstone through a mutual friend. The couple, who live on Black Rock Lane, will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in June.

They have a son and a daughter, who both are teachers. Their daughter, Nancy, is a special-needs teacher in Carlisle, Pa., and has a 3-year-old daughter. Their son, Brad, got married in December.

Hobbies: Distad enjoys tinkering with his three old cars - a 1956 Mercury, a 1967 Mercury Cougar and a 1978 Chevrolet Malibu.

"I like to go out in the garage and play," he said.

The Distads like to travel. Ed Distad said he and his wife went to Alaska last summer, so now he can say he has been to every state but Hawaii. He added that they also have been up through Canada, and for several summer vacations had rented a motor home to travel in.

What does Distad like best about Washington County? "It's not in the middle of a city, like Rockville," Distad said. "You can talk to people - you don't have to be suspicious of everybody you meet."

He said one of things that attracted them to Washington County in 1973 was the affordable housing.

If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, call Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024, or send an e-mail to

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