DANVERS — Retiring high school teacher David Allen has given countless lectures to an untold number of students, but, still, he dreads public speaking.
“Secondary and college teachers and professors ... tend to be more introverted individuals, so it’s not uncommon,” Allen said.
So, when class president Catherine Curran asked him to give the faculty address at graduation this year, he turned her down, out of “my near-phobic reaction to public speaking.”
The school’s principal, Sue Ambrozavitch, convinced him to change his mind, and Allen delivered a moving speech, called “Adventures,” about facing up to one’s fears.
After 46 years teaching at Danvers High, Allen’s own adventure as a teacher is drawing to close.
It’s a career that almost did not happen.
In his speech, the Saugus native recalled his first day at Gordon College in 1962. Faced with the task of reading 14 books in 18 weeks for a Western Civilization class, he realized he didn’t like to read much.
“I’m going to have to learn to like to read,” he realized, and he did.
On graduation day, he noted his impending retirement this way: “I am not graduating, but like you, I am commencing.”
Originally, Allen intended to become a minister, moving on to Gordon Divinity School after finishing at Gordon College. When he started seminary in 1965, he became a youth minister at First Church on Centre Street.
“I was there for a couple of years and realized I seemed to have a knack for relating to teenagers,” he said. His seminary experience “wasn’t, how would you say, thrilling me that much.”
He decided to become a teacher, and he practice-taught at Holten Richmond School in January 1968. When he applied for a permanent job, he interviewed with then-assistant superintendent for secondary education, Eugene Crowell, but Crowell wanted a more experienced teacher. Allen asked Crowell to observe him in class.