Jeff Manes: This teacher following his own Lane
May 18, 2012 3:52PM
David Lane, 42, of Portage is in his 18th year teaching at East Chicago Central High School. He teaches five sections of dual-credit English, including an Advanced Placement class. | Photo provided
Updated: June 28, 2012 12:39PM
“That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it ... .”
— From “Losing My Religion,”
I imagine it’s tough trying to follow in the footsteps of a well-known father.
The actor sons of John Wayne and Robert Mitchum come to mind — Will Rogers Jr., too.
And don’t even get me started on Frank Sinatra’s daughter, Nancy.
David Lane teaches English at East Chicago Central High School and coaches boys and girls tennis. He also is the son of Indiana University Northwest professor emeritus of history, James B. Lane, who still churns his periodical, “Steel Shavings.”
After talking to David, I think Northwest Indiana might be blessed with a genuine chip off the old block.
Lane, 42, lives in Portage with his wife, Angie. They’ve been married 14 years and have two children, James, 11, and Rebecca, 9.
“We grew up on the Porter County side of County Line Road, but we considered ourselves ‘Millerites,’ ” he said. “We were four blocks away from Wells Street Beach.”
Did you attend Portage High School?
Play sports for PHS?
“Tennis and golf. I didn’t go out for the golf team my senior year, which really upset my coach. But I wanted to get into the fall play and the spring musical. I also was in a band all through high school.”
Dave, you can’t do it all; sometimes, something has to go.
“I went to Indiana University in Bloomington. I earned a double major in four years in history and English. I had a lot of fun my freshman year, so it was tough. I decided to get serious the last three. I worked full time for a landscaping company after my sophomore year; it was hard, hot work.”
I’m sure it was.
“My parents had set aside some money for me. I kind of blew it all my freshman and sophomore years, assuming they’d give me more. They explained that was it. I learned the value of money and a very good life lesson.”
Life after IU?
“I went to West Lafayette of all places (home of IU’s major rival, Purdue University).”
What did you do?
“Worked as a substitute teacher at West Lafayette High School by day and played in a band by night. WLHS is an awesome environment to teach — great school.”
Your teaching degree?
“I looked into the (urban teacher education program) at IUN. Growing up, I always had an interest in civil rights. I wanted to work in an urban environment.
“I chose to do that not because it was the only job available. UTEP was perfect; I could work in graduate- level classes and get my teaching degree at the same time. It’s an accelerated year-and-a-half program.”
Let’s switch gears. A couple of your favorite bands?
“The Replacements, kind of an ’80s alternative band, and R.E.M. That’s while I was playing in high school bands. Before that, I was a Beatles guy all the way.
“My dad always was into music; the cool thing about him is, he got me into punk rock. I was a Ramones fan and liked the Sex Pistols as a 12-, 13-year-old kid.”
Really? I’d have wagered your peacenik pops from the psychedelic ’60s would’ve turned you on to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.
“Dad definitely evolved with the times.”
Back to scholastics — E.C. Central?
“I’ve fallen in love with the school and its students.”
How long have you taught there?
“This is my 18th year. One of the reasons I got the job was because I was willing to take on the newspaper and yearbook, which no one wanted to do because it’s a lot of work.”
What are you teaching this year?
“Right now, I teach nothing but honors kids, which includes five sections of dual-credit English, one of which is an (Advanced Placement) class. I have about 60 kids who are taking my class for college credit, which is really cool.
“But, for years, I taught remedial kids. I really miss working with the kids some teachers gave up on. If you can reach a kid who struggles; if you can make a difference, it’s special.
“The honors kids are great, but there’s something to be said about turning that kid around who wasn’t always successful.”
Do you miss teaching history?
“My students always tease me because I incorporate a lot of history in my lessons. First of all, I think it goes hand in hand with the literature. I probably put more history into it than your average English teacher because of my background.”
Anything besides teaching and coaching?
“I sponsor the senior class, I’m site coordinator of the AVID program, public address announcer for all football and basketball games ... .”
Do you also sweep out the place at night?
“I keep myself busy.”
Dave, I interviewed E.C. Central’s choir director a year or so ago — nice guy.
“Leon Kendrick — an amazing man and teacher. Leon is one of my best friends.”
Is there anything I didn’t ask you?
“I don’t know if you want to go in this direction, but when my wife was pregnant with my son, we had this home invasion.”
I vaguely remember; was your dad involved?
“Yes, he was. My mom went to visit my brother, so dad came over to have dinner with us. It was a snowstorm, and three guys broke into the house, tied us up and held us hostage for two hours. It was when Angie and I lived in Miller.”
“I told them, ‘This $200 is all I have; I’m a school teacher.’ I guess they didn’t believe me; it angered them. I begged them to not hurt my pregnant wife. It was the only humane thing they did; they didn’t mess with her too much.”
You and your dad?
“They put my father in the hospital for a week with a punctured lung and gave me a brain concussion with a claw hammer.”
Dave, I don’t know what to say. Actually I do, but this is a family newspaper.
“I wasn’t sure how I was going to mentally recover. My school and my students really made me feel good about returning to work. There was an assembly in the auditorium; they put me on the stage and gave me a standing ovation.
“Jeff, excuse me, it’s difficult to talk about this.”
Quite a family, the Lanes. Dave told me his mother, Toni, is an artist, photographer and a teacher who is one of the most creative people he’s met.
Dave’s older brother, Phil, is a producer and director for a PBS television station in Grand Rapids, Mich. He has won four or five Emmy Awards.
Glowingly, Lane mentioned many students, fellow teachers and administrators. Space does not permit listing them, but I would be remiss not mentioning one young fellow who was senior class president three years ago and the captain of Lane’s tennis team. Lane worked closely with Emmanuel Mendoza, close enough to help him get into Harvard, where he carries a 3.5 grade-point average.
Two years ago, Dave Lane was named Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year and, last year, was named E.C. Central’s Teacher of the Year.
A chip off the old block.