HIGHLAND — Gary Dunn’s students in his radio and television class at Lone Peak High School don’t want to talk about him retiring.
“Lone Peak will change when Gary’s gone,” said senior Landon Hall.
“High school wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t taken Gary’s class,” agreed senior Sarah Johnson.
The students call him Gary, which he likes.
“When I started I was 26, so I didn’t feel much apart from them,” Dunn said.
He started teaching in 1978, on the exact same day as his wife, Rena Dunn.
“I’ll have kids come up and say, ’Wait, is your wife Mrs. Dunn? I had her in third grade!” he said.
She’s 20 minutes away at Orchard Elementary in Orem, smiling on a recent morning as she watched her class practice a dance for a school performance.
“Mrs. Dunn is one of those rays of sunshine that come into the school,” said her principal, Aaron Stevenson.
“I think teaching is exciting,” she said. “To know you helped someone learn and grow.”
The Dunns are now seeing the sons and daughters of the children they taught come into their classrooms.
“Kids will come in and tell me, ‘My dad said I had to take a class from Gary. Are you that Gary?’ Yes, that’s me,” Dunn said.
“It’s kind of full circle,” laughed Rena Dunn, adding that two of her previous first-grade students came back to her classroom to get engaged.
The couple will both retire when school ends on May 29 in the Alpine School District. They say it’s a little scary. Teaching is a profession where everything is planned.
Rena Dunn choked up when talking about realizing these days are her last in the classroom. “When I think about what I am going to miss, that’s when I get this way. This has been my life,” she said.
Gary Dunn is also nervous about retiring, after spending so much time teaching teens and working with high school student councils.
“What do you talk about with someone whose 70? Literally, I am afraid of that. I’m 60 now, but you know what I mean?” he said.
But retirement will come with a new title for the Dunns: grandparents. They just had their first grandchild a week ago. Rena Dunn will continue teaching Navajo classes at BYU; her husband will continue film production and they think volunteering and LDS missions are in their future. And they will have more time to spend with their four sons and each other.
“It is unique to be starting the same day and ending the same day 37 years later,” he said.
“I guess we’ve just been the best of buddies,” she said.