BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Town historian was nation’s ‘outstanding teacher’

Name: Don Doliber

Age: 78

Birthplace: I always say I was born in an alley — Mary Alley Hospital. 

Have you lived in Marblehead your whole life? Not yet. [Doliber laughs.] But yes, I’ve always lived here.

What jobs have you had and what was your favorite? As a teenager, I worked at the Lee Mansion as a brass boy, polishing brass. I got to know a great deal about the Lee Mansion and got to research family records. After that, I worked at Boy Scout summer camps in Alfred, Maine, and Orford, New Hampshire. I worked as a counselor and camp director. For my full-time occupation, I worked as a history teacher at Masconomet Regional High School from 1967 until I retired in 2009. I was a teacher and then assistant principal and acting principal. That was my favorite job. Because I have a love for history, I had no problem telling the stories about history. I didn’t concentrate on dates. I concentrated on people.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the world? Change is important as long as we don’t up some of our prized values. I used to hand write report cards, but by the time I left teaching I was using a computer to enter grades and forward them to the tech people. That was the greatest change, to me. 

My father was born in 1903 before the Wright brothers flew. By the time he died, he saw people land on the moon. In his lifetime, I saw history and change. He lived through the flu epidemic and I lived through the COVID pandemic. 

What is your biggest accomplishment? Having a great, loving family. My wife and I have one son and one daughter. My son works for the airlines as a regional manager and my daughter is the director of resident life at Southern New Hampshire University. And we have  two wonderful grandchildren.

In 1983, my students nominated me and I was named the national DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution] Outstanding American History Teacher of the Year. I was recognized in Washington, D.C., at Constitution Hall. The Freedom Foundation in Valley Forge also recognized me as an outstanding educator in the United States. It went on and on. I was recognized as an outstanding assistant principal by the Massachusetts Principals Association.

Who is the most famous person you’ve met? Right now I’m looking at a picture of George Bush Sr. I’m in the photo, too. I was active in politics and had the opportunity to be in a select group of people in 1984 to talk to President Bush about elections.

I also met General Westmoreland, who presented me with the George Washington Medal for Excellence in Education.

What is your most vivid memory from history? I remember working at a summer camp in Maine and putting a small TV in the dining room to watch the astronauts walk on the moon. Then I stepped outside on the porch and looked up at the same moon.

What is your best advice to the next generation?  Keep your chin up and remember tomorrow is always a better day.

What’s your secret to living a long, healthy life? Even though I’m a history teacher, I never look back. I always look forward to the next day.  Also, I serve as the official town historian and that keeps me young, without question. The phone rings and you never know what question will be asked of you. I also run the cribbage tournament for seniors at the Council on Aging every Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. 

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