Allie: Tell me how you found yourself in DC?
Dane: Well I have GatherDC to thank for that, more specifically Julie Thompson. She is my roommate, and my girlfriend; we share a one bedroom apartment in Columbia Heights. She sleeps in the bedroom, and I sleep on the couch. She’s the one who got me to move down here. I used to live in Baltimore and used to hate DC, but I finally came down and turns out DC is a pretty great city.
Allie: Where are you from originally?
Dane: I’m from Laurel, Maryland. It’s roughly between DC and Baltimore. Then, I went to undergrad at College Park. Living in DC is actually my first time living outside maybe a 30-mile radius.
Allie: What inspired you to become a teacher?
Dane: Is masochist the one where you like to hurt yourself? I just wanted to set myself up for a bad time. Kidding!
Really, I’ve never been a big fan of school. Growing up, I had a couple of teachers that pushed me to go above the bare minimum, and it really helped me want to strive for excellence in the work I did. They paid attention, and made me feel really proud of working hard. It had a major impact on my life, and I wanted to do the same for others. So, I became a teacher.
Allie: What grade and subject do you teach?
Dane: I teach 7th grade English and 6th grade reading. I originally wanted to teach high school in New York, because I wanted to move away from this area and be on my own somewhere new. In grad school, I was placed in a middle school in the last county I wanted to be in – Howard County. They told me I would be there for one quarter and then would move to a high school. By the time that quarter was up, there were claw marks in the walls because I didn’t want to leave, and I beat down the door of that middle school when I was looking for a job. It’s such a great place to be.
Allie: What are your favorite things about teaching?
Dane: The kids, they’re great. They are full of life, full of energy and enthusiasm – which is a blessing and a curse. High school is very grade driven, where students are constantly thinking about how to get A’s and how things will benefit them later.
Middle school students really make me think about the purpose of what I do here: what is the meaning behind it? Why should they care? When you hit that groove it’s such a fulfilling feeling. You have a lot of freedom to make an impact and help others learn how to make an impact.
Allie: What’s the most challenging part?
Dane: It’s a very big time commitment and it’s a very big emotional commitment. I’ve moved around to different curriculums every year I’ve been teaching, which is exhausting. You have to anticipate how things will go for the first time. Grading is ridiculous as an English teacher, and then emotionally you have kids going through the biggest changes of their lives. You have to anticipate that and work with that to help them get through it, which is worthwhile but tiring.
Allie: Why did you choose to teach English?
Dane: My dad told me I should be an English major because I like to read and am a good writer. If I could go back I would think about science. I am not a natural scientist by any means, but I taught a sustainability course last year and it’s a really cool thing to teach.
Allie: What is your perfect day in DC, assuming you don’t have school and have unlimited money to spend.
Dane: I’ll wake up, feed former Jewish Cat of the Month Chloe, and then make coffee. Ideally the weather outside is low 70s – a nice, sunny day. I’ll go for a walk, and then Julie and I would go to RedRocks and sit on the patio. I’d get myself RedRocks’ hash because it’s the best breakfast food that’s ever been created. After that, I would go downtown and spend some time at the museums. I’d grab lunch at a burger joint with outdoor seating. Then, I’d find a good rooftop bar and meet up with some friends. After that, I’d go to Meridian Hill Park and watch a beautiful sunset. Then, I’d go to dinner with some friends, and be sure to crawl into bed by 9:30.
Allie: How do you relax after a long work day?
Dane: I like my couch. I’ll sit on the couch, close the door, and light a candle. I like to put my things away so I’m sitting in a nice clean space, and take a little bit of time to have some quiet and watch the sunset.
Allie: Do you have any resolutions for the year ahead?
Dane: Oh yeah, whether or not they’re going to be fulfilled is another thing. This last decade was one of major shifts. I started college in 2010, finished in 2015 with grad school. A lot of it was very youthful – figuring out who I am. It came with a lot of anxiety around not knowing what was going to happen next. This year, I just want to think less and do more. My first instinct is usually good but I don’t always follow it, and I need to trust myself more.
Allie: Are there any places you want to travel to?
Dane: I haven’t really been outside the country, so my next big thing is international travel. Julie loves to travel and I’ve been along for the ride with her, which has been awesome. I’d love to go to a place that’s a little outside my comfort zone, somewhere where I’m not as familiar with the language and can get immersed in a culture that’s very unlike mine. I’d also love to continue to visit national parks, especially out west. The parks there are more beautiful than anything you can see in a picture.
Dane: I would say Passover, I really enjoy having people over for Passover, and all the food that we make. I come from a family of great cooks, where there was always plenty of good food to go around. My mom makes an unbelievable brisket for Passover and my dad also makes a great matzah ball soup. I’m also fascinated by Purim, but haven’t really celebrated it before.
Allie: What’s something someone might be surprised to know about you?
Dane: I’m very introverted. I do not get my energy from being around people. I try very hard to be friendly, and I think people expect me to be more extroverted than I am. Julie and I have figured out that she is definitely more extroverted, whereas I am usually quite worn out after talking.
Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…
Dane: Hopefully it’s on M Street!