David Delaney’s near decade-long tenure at Pine View has featured a multitude of charms: friendly, soft-spoken greetings to students he passed by while heading into his classroom, the pine cone and pine needle collections that amassed from when he regularly worked in the school garden, and a history of eating the entirety of an apple – “yes, including the core and a stem here or there,” according to English teacher Chris Pauling. Delaney’s work in the ESE department has come to a close this year as he retires, bidding adieu to Pine View.
With roots in Connecticut, Delaney pursued further education at Southern Connecticut State College. 10 years of work at summer camps dedicated to educating the mentally handicapped assisted Delaney with his work at Southbury Training School, ushering Delaney into grad school at Columbia University. Teaching at Manson Youth Facility, a maximum-security prison, led him to his wife, Debbie Delaney, who came to the institute as a literacy volunteer. The two married in 1990 and moved to Sarasota in 1993. Soon after, Delaney became a teacher at Oak Park School, a school dedicated to serving students with special needs.
Social studies teacher Roma Jagdish worked with Delaney for a handful of months at Oak Park, so as to familiarize herself with the American education system following her emigration from Singapore.
“Being in his class gave me an opportunity to learn how to run a structured class. Subbing in a school like Oak Park for 3 months prepared me to move ahead with my teaching career with the Sarasota School District, and I owe that to Mr. Delaney. He has admirable traits – smart, kind, and patient and I aspire to be like that, too,” Jagdish said via email.
Once at Oak Park, Delaney was given an opportunity to volunteer as a teacher at the Sarasota County Jail. He took it, with his background working at facilities in Connecticut making him open to the experience. 2020 marks his 27th and final year volunteering there, as officially retiring from one district position means retiring from them all.
Debbie Delaney’s position as a teacher at Pine View opened Delaney to the idea of broadening his horizons past almost 15 years at Oak Park. After talking to the former principal, Delaney became part of the Pine View staff.
“The kids here have taught me that I’m not at smart as I thought I was, that there’s always someone smarter than you. I’ve learned from them that I can always do better, and I think that reflects not my view of them, but that I have a lot of respect for these students, who keep on going despite so much around them,” Delaney said.
Delaney believes that his biggest mark on campus is his involvement with the Special Olympics.
“I coordinated the Olympics after Ms. Donovan, who had been doing it 10 years or so, had to leave it. A lot of the students and a lot of the adults in the Olympics were my former students at Oak Park, which made it special for me. Other teachers like Blake Wiley and Carol McLaughlin and Gloria and Doug the custodians got involved and we all worked together to make it successful,” he said.
Referring to himself as “a cog in a well-run machine,” Delaney remains humble about his work at Pine View. Pauling, however, is steadfast in one claim: “I couldn’t ever say enough good things about Mr. Delaney. I’m beyond lucky and happy to consider him a friend.” The two met when Pauling made the move from Booker Middle to Pine View in 2015. They shared a portable for one year as Pauling worked in a part-time English, part-time ESE position.
“Sharing a classroom with him was one of the best experiences I’ve had in teaching. I feel like he is a grandfather figure to not just me, but just a grandfather kind of guy to everyone he comes across: current students, former students, kids he knew as his children’s friends, everyone. He has a bit of an old-school tradition in him and in his teaching style that I recognized as having a major positive influence for people,” Pauling said.
The ESE department at Pine View has experienced many changes over the years, and Pauling credits Delaney for his flexibility despite these developments.
“I’m amazed at how he has been able to adapt to the changes of his environment over the years, so he could be relevant and helpful because that’s not always easy,” Pauling said. “He’s able to sit down with a kid who is in elementary, middle, or high school, and make them smile. I wish that every Pine View student knew Mr. Delaney so that they could recognize his mantra to be comfortable and confident in who you are, that you are loved and worthy of an amazing life. He lives to teach that you can work through it and that it’s going to be okay. You are important. You matter. ‘You matter’ was so important to every kid he met, that when they left his classroom, they knew that they mattered, beyond any challenges and difficulties.”
When asked about what he’s most proud of, Delaney did not hesitate to begin sharing stories about his children. As a father of eight – and grandfather of sixteen – Delaney is the epitome of a family man. He sees retirement as an opening to spending more time with the family that got him to where he is today.
“When I think about retirement, there’s a wall there, and the windows are too far up and I can’t see through them. It’s the final chapter of my life. Who would’ve thought I’d be 70, still teaching? I think I’m going have to learn to take life one day at a time. I never would’ve expected I’d be here at Pine View, starting off with working at Oak Park. My wife pushes me and I would’ve retired at 65 if it wasn’t for her. I’m fortunate to have a wife who does what she does best…We’ll be married 30 years soon. It was love at first sight when we met. I had a lot of boxes to tick off, and she ticked off them all. I love her dearly,” Delaney said.
Though certain elements of the future remain uncertain, Delaney sees himself continuing to volunteer through Paws for Warriors and working toward developing his garden at home. Be it through the pine needles scattered across campus or the excitement that is found every year during the Special Olympics, Delaney’s presence on campus will certainly never be forgotten.