Nation & World News

40 Years Of Disco Duds Prove A Teacher Can Be Awesome, Too

By Mark Memmott on July 6th, 2013

One word came to mind this week when we saw the stories about Texas physical education teacher Dale Irby and how he had worn the same “groovy shirt and sweater vest” for every school photo in the past 40 years:

Awesome.

Before we explore his awesomeness, though, here’s some background.

In 1973, Irby’s first year as a elementary school coach in the Dallas area, word went out that teachers should “wear something nice” for school photos. He didn’t have too many things to choose from at the time. Phys ed teachers, after all, get to wear shorts to work if they wish. He went with the vest and polyester shirt.

Then the next year, Irby told the Dallas Morning News:

” ‘I was so embarrassed when I got the school pictures back that second year and realized I had worn the very same thing as the first year,’ said Dale, 63. But his wife, Cathy, dared him to do it a third year. Then Dale thought five would be funny. ‘After five pictures,’ he said, ‘it was like: ‘Why stop?’ ”

“So,” the Morning News adds, “he just never did, right on through this, his final year as every kid’s favorite physical education teacher at Prestonwood Elementary in the Richardson school district” of Dallas.

The Morning News put together a slide show and a video that capture Irby’s wonderfully wacky timeline. Click through to see how he changed over the years, even as the vest and shirt stayed firmly stuck in the disco days.

There’s also a blog post from Morning News photographer Gerry McCarthy, who writes that the recently retired Irby tells the Morning News “he was ‘shocked’ and ‘surprised’ by all the attention. He doesn’t really understand it.”

We think we might understand it. Which brings us back to that word — awesome.

Back in November 2009, we offered this post:

Yes, Your Parents Were ‘Awesome'; So Why Not Show The World?

As we wrote at the time, “you may not want to admit it. But your parents were probably pretty cool in their day. … One guy’s made it his mission to show the world that our parents were — and are — awesome. Eliot Glazer talked with All Things Considered host Michele Norris about My Parents Were Awesome, the blog he’s running.”

Since that post, My Parents Were Awesome has collected many more photos of parents who “before the fanny packs and Andrea Bocelli concerts … were once free- wheeling, fashion-forward, and super awesome.”

It seems clear: There’s something great about seeing your elders — whether they be parents, grandparents or teachers — in all their youthful glory. And Irby took things even further. He turned his embarrassment into something … well, awesome.

Well done, coach.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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