Welcome to SweetwaterNOW’s series, #WHYoming.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
This week I sat down with Dan Parson who lives in Green River. Dan is a teacher, a speech and debate coach, and a professional fly fishing guide. He was living and teaching in Chicago, but missed his outdoor lifestyle. Then Wyoming entered the picture.
Dan, how did you end up in Green River?
I was teaching in inner city Chicago. I loved the building, teaching and my students, but I hated living in a city. I’ve been a fly fisherman and hunter my whole life and missed that. So, I flooded the Rocky Mountain West with resumes. The school district in Green River called me first. The interview went well apparently because they hired me.
I grew up in Northern Minnesota. This area was a better fit for my lifestyle. I’ve lived in Green River for around 21 years now.
What is something unique about you?
In a way, I have three jobs. Teaching is my main career, coaching speech and debate is my second and being a professional fly fishing guide is my third.
Teaching is really good for my heart, coaching is really good for my mind and fishing is really good for my soul.”
– Dan Parson
What made you want to permanently pursue a career as a teacher?
Earlier in life, I thought about medical school, but it wasn’t going to be a good fit. I started teaching while I wasn’t sure what to do and because it allowed me to fish in the summer. However, the main reason I stuck with teaching is a boy named Raymond Washington.
My first year teaching in Chicago, I had Raymond as a student. He was a rough, tough inner city kid who’d been in a lot of trouble. He was probably 16, had been in and out of foster care and eventually ended up with his grandmother. His grandmother took him in on the condition that he promise to be her first grandchild to graduate from high school.
For whatever reason, Raymond and I hit it off. I convinced him to join the basketball team because he was very good at street ball. One day I heard a sob underneath the stairwell on my way out the door. I looked under the dark stairs and found Raymond. He’d been kicked off of the basketball team because the coach required the players to wear lace-up shoes and all he had was velcro. I said that wasn’t a problem. I’d help him get lace-up shoes. When he got mad, I realized it was about something else so I asked what was really going on. No one had ever taught him how to tie his shoes. I took off a shoe right then and there and taught him how to tie a shoe.
Raymond went on to graduate from high school. Then went to a community college where he played basketball. Eventually, he earned a master’s degree and became a teacher and a coach at a community college.
I didn’t do much for Raymond. But it hit me that teachers need to meet their students at their current level. Raymond was a boy who needed to learn how to tie his shoes before he could move forward. After 25 years, I remember it’s my job to meet students where they are.
Raymond is a reason why I am still a teacher to this day.
Dan with one of his students in class. Photo courtesy of Dan Parson.
What is it like to essentially have three jobs?
I’m too busy at times. I hold some leadership positions in speech and debate in the state and country. But, teaching is really good for my heart, coaching is really good for my mind and fishing is really good for my soul.
What do you appreciate most about our community?
What I appreciate most is that this area has been a very warm and safe place to raise my family. But pretty close to that, is our river. My wife likes to say the river is my mistress and there is some truth to that.
We have a world-class fishery. Most local folks aren’t aware of that. Both the Flaming Gorge and our river.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
I have two pieces of advice. First, don’t give advice. You are kind of culpable if it doesn’t work out. Second, the times in my life where things have been most rewarding, the happiest, have been those times I jumped into whatever I was doing with both feet. And, finish what you start. If it doesn’t work out in the end, move on to the next thing.
Dan after a successful hunt. Photo courtesy of Dan Parson.
Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?
The Green River up through Seedskadee Wildlife Refuge. Seedskadee is a diamond in the rough.
Would you rather walk, ride a bike, take a horse or drive a car?
I’d rather row a boat.
What would you sing at karaoke night?
“I’m a Little Teapot” (chuckling).
How would your friends describe you?
Obsessive with a goofy giggle that comes out way too often.
Dan with a speech and debate team he helped coach. Photo courtesy of Dan Parson.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
My son is about to graduate from high school I am really proud of him. I’ve been named coach of the year twice. I’m really proud of that. I’ve guided some well-known folks on the river. I’m not necessarily proud of that, I see that as luck.
I guided two gentlemen one day, Andrew and Bob. They were both professors at Stanford. Andrew was a part of the medical program and Bob was a chemist. We talked for a bit in the boat before it hit me who they were. I was with two Nobel Prize winners. As a science teacher, that was much bigger to me than meeting a famous sports figure.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?
Denzel Washington. I think we look a lot alike (chuckling).
Dan with his family. Photo courtesy of Dan Parson.
Why do you continue to live in Wyoming?
It’s home. It’s filled with very good people. The river. I love what I do. I enjoy a great life here. I certainly haven’t earned it. I stumbled into it backwards. It’s more than I hoped for and probably more than I deserve. I don’t take it for granted.
If you’d like us to interview yourself or someone you know for #WHYoming, please send us suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org