LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Gary Way

Position: Retiring Art and English Teacher
School: Dakota Adventist Academy
School District: Dakota Adventist Academy
City, State: Bismarck, ND

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Gary Way was nominated by his former colleague, Jeannie Fletcher.

Mr. Way has dedicated his life to broadening and inspiring young minds.  He taught for over 35 years in all levels of education, from the elementary classroom to the college auditorium.  Those teaching experiences span the states of Idaho, Oregon, Wisconsin, Washington, and North Dakota. Mr. Way adhered to high academic, moral, and ethical standards.  The dedication he showed his students did not stop at the classroom door.  He could be found taking those students hiking, backpacking, and ice-skating amongst other activities.

"Even though Mr. Way is retiring, the ripples of his teaching career will continue to flow out through his students into their families, churches, and communities all around the globe," said Fletcher. "He has made this world a better place...It is with sincere appreciation that Mr. Way is thanked for his dedication to excellence in the field of education."



Comments (14)


Caleb Tachenko Posted 2 months ago

I had always heard good news about Mr. Way and how good of a teacher he was. My brother told me that even though he was the hardest teacher, everyone loved him. When I finally went to DAA, I immediately knew he would be my favorite teacher. He is so nice and really, truly cared about his students. I don't think I'll ever have an English or Art class as good as his were. He made sure one knew the material and would to his best to make it fun. There was never a dull day in his classes. Not only was he a good teacher, but an amazing class sponsor. He helped out a ton for activities and worked very hard on projects we had. I am sure I am not the only one who can say he inspired me not just to be better to myself, but to everyone around me as well.

Nawanont Richard Pathomsiri Posted 2 months ago

Mr. Way taught me from 2015 to 2017 in English and Art. I wouldn't necessarily say my English was poor, but he ignited a passion in me for other aspects of English. I would've never engaged myself in finding synonyms for commonly used words if it weren't for his weekly vocabulary tests. I most certainly wouldn't have cared for much literature if it weren't for his reading assignments and passion for the philosophies of American and British literature (though the latter was monotonous at times). I also wouldn't be constantly challenging my beliefs and discovering different purposes to seek if it weren't for him. His art classes also convinced me that with enough practice and guidance, one can have an eye for the arts and materialize internal thoughts into expressions that reflect the artist. Between his education, his relentless passion for his students and involvement with the school was nothing short of inspiring to me. His participation with intramurals and commitment to himself and serving others is something that sticks with me to this day. It'll be hard to find another person who strives to work as hard as he does all while remaining humble about it. He is only serving his Creator is what he used to tell me. Working so hard for others while skiing angled slopes every winter is like a poem that if someone were to write, he would be teaching it. His light and impact hasn't left me and in nearly two decades of teaching at Dakota Adventist Academy, coupled with my interactions with his former students, I am certain they haven't left others he's met as well. He is legendary.

Christine Taylor Posted 2 months ago

Mr. Way had a unique sense of humor and excelled in teaching. He pushed me to be a better writer and helped me achieve art successes I didn't know I was capable of. When he wasn't teaching, he was encouraging students to participate in sports and within the community. He was a consistent aid to holiday bell ringing and always found the best art shows, galleries, and concerts for students to either attend or be a part of. I am will forever be thankful for the academic strength and improvement he planted within me and so many other students. Best of luck on your next endeavor Mr. Way!

Kristin Gottfried Posted 2 months ago

I had mr way as my English teacher back in 2002 to 2003. He was very patient with me as a student. He was one of my favorite teachers in my life. Very funny and always a kind man and had a smile on his face all the time and was quick with a joke as well.

Kyle Tachenko Posted 2 months ago

English was never my strong point, and Mr. Way's class was difficult, but he made it enjoyable. He was the best at explanations, and he really cared about all of the students and would work with all of them if they asked. He would take their abbilities into consideration as he graded and grade them by not only f they got an essay right, but if he could tell you were trying hard. He helped many students come out of their comfort zones, and with all of his quirks, and activites he planned for the kids, it was always so much fun. It is going to be so empty there without him, and he touched so many students lives through the years. Truly a man who believes in God, and follows him well, and is the best teacher, and an amazing man!

Jadyn Anderson Posted 2 months ago

Mr. Way was an amazing English and Art teacher. He helped us learn in a creative and fun manner while maintaining an incredibly rigorous curriculum. My college literature class was a breeze thanks to Mr. Way. Aside from helping us become academically adept and expanding our vocabularies profoundly he often encouraged us to think deeply about problems in society or religious matters. He allowed us to reason and think on our own but gave us opportunity to think on deep, philosophical ideas that helped me identify who I am as a person and what I stand for and believe in. He is an amazing teacher and friend.

Leticia Venegas Posted 2 months ago

I had the privilege to be taught by Mr. Way all 4 years of high school. He was not only a great teacher, but a friend to many of his students. He cared for each and every one of his students and I could tell he always wanted me to push myself to be better, and to step out of my comfort zone (especially with poetry out loud). Mr. Way made sure I was prepared for college and my future career. When I began college and took English101 and 102, I found that the papers were no harder or longer than the ones Mr. Way assigned and taught us how to write. I was so relieved, but when I looked at my peers, most of them were not prepared; some even admitted to me that they had only ever written two page papers in high school. I am beyond thankful to Mr. Way for the huge advantage he gave my college career. No words can fully describe the impact he has had on my life. I remember sometime near graduation, I told Mr. Way I was going to major in secondary education, most likely math. He told me that he thought elementary education was my calling and I just laughed it off at the time, but of course he was right and I eventually did feel called to elementary education and I am now in my junior year of study. Mr. Way was also the art teacher and, as I’m a terrible artist, I never decided to take his class, which I do partially regret now. But when we had painting stations or drawing activities at camp week or whenever, Mr. Way always encouraged me to paint or draw and always had wonderful things to say about my art. If I was blind he could have probably convinced me I was an amazing artist; somehow he saw a potential in me that I did not see in myself and if I ever do decide to learn how to draw or paint, Mr. Way would definitely be my top choice in teacher. Mr. Way has a plethora of talents, one being skiing, and in my sophomore year, I did have an unfortunate accident that involved me body slamming him on the way down the hill and even at his age, he ended up going back up the hill to continue skiing and I ended up calling it a day. Of course, I am glad he was okay even though he almost needed surgery, but I am also thankful that although the experience was painful, we both have a funny story to share; and hopefully every time his thumb hurts, he will think of me. Dakota Adventist Academy truely will never be the same without him. He was one of my hardest goodbyes when I graduated and I know he is one of the hardest goodbyes for DAA. I love you Mr. Way!

Kelsey Harrington Posted 2 months ago

As the middle of my sophomore year of high school rolled around, I had moved to a new state and a new school on my own. Here I would come across a seemingly unstoppable force, Mr. Way, who happened to drop into my life at an opportune time. I spent nearly four to five hours a day in his classrooms; some days surrounded by other students, other days I would be alone. Growing to love the process and work put into each piece became crucial for survival here. His red pen would mercilessly swipe across the pages from across the room as he would periodically remind the art room at every audible complaint or whine at a task, “Work is the most beautiful word in the English language.” If you were lucky, you would have the chance to hear the story of how he grew to learn Dutch and discipline in a school in the Netherlands. Here he would transform his own relationship with work. Years would pass and he would become the principal of a school in Homedale, Idaho, and eventually moving to become an art and English instructor at our little boarding school in the middle of Nowhere, North Dakota. There he would wake up daily bright and early in the morning to walk five miles around the school building before he headed in for the day. There he taught four levels of art classes a day, four levels of English classes, ran the school newspaper, helped run the school church system, and pick up slack wherever it was needed in the building. He would also often be seen joining basketball, hockey, baseball, and numerous other intramural sports alongside the other students to finish off his day. In the evenings he would always be seen with papers from that very day graded and delivered to the front desk of the dorms. His superpower was work, and it was a power I yearned for often. In order to graduate with a particular art degree that I was striving for, I would take three of Mr. Way’s art courses daily along with my regular English class and picking up the role as head editor of the newspaper. As I took on these roles, a new mentality was adopted as well, akin to Mr. Way’s unabating need for productivity. Learning to compete with classmates for the highest grades were all unfamiliar feelings but became a new reality. A new sense of hope materialized into my life at the close of my senior year as my principal sat down with me and my complete transcript for the last time. He had turned to me from his desktop screen, commenting “do you see this? You get better every year.” Better every year. Getting better was such a foreign concept. Alongside Mr. Way’s daily work and inexorable energy, I would unknowingly pick up habits and obscure lessons. Anything that could be done in two minutes or less could be done now. One’s past would not define their future endeavors. One is not required to confine their lives devoted to one single occupation or skill. Work does not always need to be seen as a dreary thing. Becoming the dream of the student that bounces bright-eyed into class carrying finished homework, neatly stapled and highlighted was not impossible, much of it was related to one’s attitude towards their work. After all, work was the most beautiful word in the English language. It was liberating to know that something as simple as work could allow me to become better. Inheriting the work ethic and energy of a nearly seventy-year-old man may not seem to be a blessing, and yet this would be something that would become a saving grace. It would become easier to skip down the stairs into the basement art room, where careful decisions were made with even the slightest details to ensure a piece that would feel that was worthwhile in the end. Papers and busywork did not feel as treacherous and demeaning when pushing away these pages to the last minute, or even after it was too late, became less of a habit. The process would then become less daunting. If it were not for a seemingly out of his mind, yet incredibly passionate English teacher, I do not feel that I would have made it nearly as far as I did. Bigger projects did not feel so out of reach as they did before, and this would allow me to have bigger goals that would give me hope. Though I do not feel I could ever achieve the same work ethic that he has, getting me through a period I felt I would not make it past felt like enough and will still be something that keeps driving me forward.

Tracy Jo Peterson Posted 2 months ago

Gary taught both of my daughters, as well as working with me as a staff member of Dakota Adventist Academy. He ALWAYS went above and beyond. Not only did he teach English, but he also taught 4 classes of Art. He made certain our boarding students had fun activities planned for Sunday afternoons. He organized our students to assist in many service projects such as Salvation Army Bell Ringing. His humor was appreciated in and out of the classroom. He has been a blessing to my family as a teacher and a friend.

Taylor Woodruff Posted 2 months ago

Mr. Gary Way Wow, I have never known someone who deserves something like this more! Mr. Way was my English teacher and art teacher all four years of high school and continues to be a friend several years after. If I had to choose one person I’ve met in my life that’s impacted me most, it would easily be this man.I truly wouldn’t be the person I am without knowing and learning under him. His passion, heart, mind, and work ethic have been admirable through the generations of students he has walked with. His retirement has been bittersweet in my opinion because I think everyone deserves to have a “Mr.Way” in their life at some point but I also know that this man has changed so many lives that has had a rippled affect on this earth. God Bless him and his retirement!

Julius Ellis Posted 2 months ago

Mr. Gary Way has been the most impactful teacher that I have ever had. His patience, commitment and willingness to serve has made him a legend among current and former Dakota Adventist Academy students and staff alike. It will be very difficult to find a person more fitting for this award. As a kid that moved from New York City to Bismarck, North Dakota I faced many obstacles and changes. Mr. Gary Way helped me overcome those obstacles and helped me become a better man. It is safe to say many students feel likewise. To whoever this concerns thank you for reading this and giving Mr. Gary Way his well deserved credit.

Sharon Messer Posted 2 months ago

Mr. Way, my family has so appreciated your influence at DAA. From Charlotte as a student to you having my great nephew,Joel.....you are to be commended for your kind, loving nature. You have always gone out of your way to help students! Thank you! Sharon and Gary Messer

Tracy Jo Peterson Posted 2 months ago

Gary taught both of my daughters, as well as working with me as a staff member of Dakota Adventist Academy. He ALWAYS went above and beyond. Not only did he teach English, but he also taught 4 classes of Art. He made certain our boarding students had fun activities planned for Sunday afternoons. He organized our students to assist in many service projects such as Salvation Army Bell Ringing. His humor was appreciated in and out of the classroom. He has been a blessing to my family as a teacher and a friend.

Anthony Oucharek Posted 2 months ago

I have had the privilege of working with Mr. Way during his last 3 years in the classroom. His passion for the two subjects that he taught has been infectious. He constantly looked for things he could do outside of the classroom to draw students into an interest in the arts, both performing and visual, as well as in language arts. Museum trips, recreation activities, social activities - all saw Mr. Way throwing himself in the ring as either a participant or sponsor - sometimes both. He scoured the local bulletin boards, seeking opportunities to engage his students in the bigger world. Bell ringing at Christmas for the Salvation Army, University of Mary music and art programs and presentations, Dakota Adventist Academy programs - Mr. Way has played a significant role in making these happen, being a part of them or just being present. An advocate for his students' rights, Mr. Way's integrity has always been a staple. He ran speech, poetry and art competitions at the school so that he could take those who put in the time to participate in the community events. His students' art work has been in competitions and displays all over North Dakota - wherever there has been opportunity for them. He has been an active participant in Poetry Out Loud, Artists Celebrating Christ, Hazen Art and Craft Show, and other such meets as a means of promoting the arts, his students and the community. Saturday or Sunday winter afternoons, you might find Mr. Way on his cross-country skis either at the school or at one of the golf courses. Almost always, there would be a few students with him. Mr. Way loved the outdoors and he wanted others to love them as well. He collected skates and skis and students were constantly borrowing one or the other to get out in nature. An avid walker, spring, summer and autumn, on weekends you might run into Mr. Way and his wife, Janet, hiking at Cross Ranch State Park. Weekdays, you would have to be up before dawn to catch him on his daily 5 mile walk before school. An avid promoter of health and healthy living, Mr. Way was nothing if not routine. A fixture here for the past 18 years, Mr. Way's retiring will leave a hole at DAA and in this part of North Dakota. We thank him for his dedication and years of service and wish him the best in this new adventure.