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An alum returns to Eye Street after 40 years: Mr. Douglas Pielmeier ’83

Photo+by+Brendan+Rohde
Photo by Brendan Rohde
By Brendan Rohde-

It is a quiet early morning on a weekday and just like any other school day at Gonzaga. It is dark and peaceful, but a few Gonzaga teachers are getting to school early to start their routine. For Mr. Douglas Pielmeier ’83 who  dressed in a checkered dress shirt, a social studies teacher,  that means grading papers and checking his daily lesson plan after catching up with Mr. Mark Howell ‘73, math and computer science teacher, before going to the daily morning mass at the chapel. 

“I’m usually here around 6:40 a.m., and it irritates me to no end that Mark Howell beats me in, every day, so I come in, I get set up. And, you know, I don’t want to say you schedule Mass, but that’s where I start my day,” Mr. Pielmeier said.

After graduating from Gonzaga as a member of the class of 1983, Mr. Pielmeier continued his education at the University of Maryland where he earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in history. From there, he began his career as an educator, spending nine years teaching social studies at Potomac High School and 19 at Justice High School, totaling 28 years of service in the Virginia public education system. During his career, he has taught different styles and levels of courses, including Advanced Placement or AP and International Baccalaureate or IB, along with standard level social studies classes. This experience shared with him many lessons but mainly an importance on being a life-long learner.

“I think we’re all supposed to be life-long learners, so every class you take, every class you leave, you’re supposed to gain something from that, and I would say, having the opportunity to teach such a diversity of individuals, both economically, religiously, ethnically, whatever you want to say, was a fantastic opportunity to learn how to engage and how to interact,” Mr. Pielmeier said.

A striking feature of the conversation was the jovial personality that this long-tenured teacher displayed, who shared the usage and instructional importance of the various subject assigned binders located behind his chair. 

Through expressing the importance of managing the expectations of the class from a teacher’s perspective, he has found over the years, and especially this year at Gonzaga, how much mutual respect can help a classroom environment. 

“I cannot demand a PR, a personal record, every day you’re in my class because if every teacher demands that PR, it’s going to be a heck of a stressful year… I’m intimately involved in production in the attainment of knowledge, but at the same time, you can’t crack the whip 24/7. And as an educator for 30 years, the invention of the personal device and hotspot known as the iPhone has dramatically affected how students process information, and so, we have to do things differently,” Mr. Pielmeier said.

Mr. Joe Viola ’83, a classmate and now colleague of Mr. Pielmeier, spoke of some fond memories of the time they spent together at Gonzaga many years ago and the effort to convince Mr. Pielmeier to join the Gonzaga staff. 

“We’ve been friends for over 20 years, and I’ve heard over the years from people that that had him at different schools, especially most recently Justice,” Mr. Viola said. “I’m happy that he got here.”

In speaking to several students at Gonzaga in Mr. Pielmeier’s classes, they spoke of his efficient teaching style that helped to prepare them for their AP exams and how they really engage with the material covered in class.

“Mr. Pielmeier prepares us for the AP exam better by covering more of how to read about the topic through DBQ and other responses,” said Will Buckley ’25, who is in Mr. Pielmeier’s AP U.S. History class.  

Although it is only still within Mr. Pielmeier’s first year of teaching at Gonzaga, many of his satirical and memorable quips that are peppered throughout his classes cement the image of the witty experienced professional in his pupil’s minds, but he tends to always end each and every class with a variant of the same line.  

“Well men, that’s all we’ve got for today. Now go and share your personalities with some other teachers,” Mr. Pielmeier remarked.

 

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