It's part of him now

This is Dan Henderson's fifth year as Destination Imagination regional director

This is Dan Henderson's fifth year as Destination Imagination regional director

March 26, 2007|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...

Dan Henderson

Age - 36.

Occupation - Fifth-grade teacher at Williamsport Elementary School.

Hometown: Hagerstown.

Where would you see Henderson? - With Western Maryland's Regional Destination Imagination Tournament coming up this weekend, Henderson is working on the finishing touches.

Every weekend in March involves working at regional tournaments across the state for Henderson.

Henderson, who lives in the North End, got involved with Destination Imagination 10 years ago, in his second year of teaching. He volunteered as a team coach at Cascade Elementary, where he was teaching at the time. This is his fifth year as regional director.


After attending his first tournament, he said he was hooked.

In the years he's been involved with DI, Henderson has been a challenge appraiser, an affiliate challenge master who trains appraisers and an affiliate training director for the state. DI uses the word appraiser instead of judge so students don't feel like they're being judged, Henderson said.

"I'm glad I said 'yes.' I told them I'd do DI until they bury me. I absolutely love this program," Henderson said.

Henderson also goes to the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tenn., every year as an appraiser - this year he's head appraiser for the secondary theater challenge. He's also been on the writing team for the theater challenges for the past three years and will be the lead writer for next year's theater challenge.

What has captivated Henderson about DI is the problem solving, teamwork, innovation and imagination required to solve the challenges. He said it encourages students to take risks, which is an important part of success in education.

Each team chooses one of five different challenges and get to choose one. Options include technical design and construction, theater arts, playwriting, improvisational acting and architectural design, each with a different theme. The teams also have to prepare an instant challenge the day of the tournament.

This year, the Western Region has more teams entered for their tournament than in the past five years, Henderson said. He said there are 16 middle schools and 15 elementary schools from Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties. Allegany and Garrett counties are also in the region, but don't have any teams.

Seventeen teams from the Western Region will advance to the state tournament at Towson State University on April 21. About 30 Maryland teams will earn a spot at the Global Finals in Knoxville in May.

Williamsport Elementary doesn't have a team this year, but Henderson is hopeful there will be a school team next year.

The Washington County native taught at Cascade, Williamsport, Lincolnshire and Emma K. Doub before returning to Williamsport Elementary. Henderson attended Fountaindale, Northern Middle and graduated from North Hagerstown High School.

He continued his education at what was then Hagerstown Junior College, then graduated from Frostburg State University after changing his major several times.

One constant in his life has been musical theater. Henderson remembers his first production at North High - "Oklahoma!"

"I didn't think I could go through with it, but I loved it. I was bitten by the show biz bug," Henderson said.

Hobbies - Henderson said his life is divided into three parts school, theater and DI. "I don't think there's time for any other hobbies," he said with a laugh.

What does Henderson like best about Washington County? - "I think it's the comfort level, that comfort zone," he said. "It's home. It's where I grew up. It's a beautiful area."

Henderson remembers graduating from FSU in December 1995 and a month later was scheduled for an interview for a substitute teaching position with Washington County Public Schools. The blizzard of 1996 struck the day before the interview, so Henderson walked through the snow to the interview.

Six days later he was offered a long-term substitute teaching job at Cascade Elementary, Henderson recalls fondly.

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

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