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Stephen "Steve" Fox '58

  • Whitworth Major: Education
  • Retired Educator
  • Washington State P.E. Elementary Teacher of the Year, 1989
  • Pacific Northwest P.E. Teacher of the Year, 1990
  • Disney American Teacher Award for Elementary Physical Education, 1991
  • Residence: Puyallup, Wash.

'Keep moving on'

I grew up in Puyallup. During World War II I watched the big army trucks roll down the street, taking Japanese citizens to the internment camp at the fairgrounds. I was about six years old, but I can still tell you the corner I stood on as the trucks went by. We had to black out our windows with felt paper so any enemy aircraft could not see the city. My dad was the city engineer, and he'd go out and check to make sure the city was dark. We had ration stamps for a limited amount of food and gas. The day the war ended I was in 4th grade. The high school kids all got in somebody's convertible and headed down the street, blowing their horns and shouting, "The war is over!"

P.E. was something I never really got to do as a child. I had P.E. once, in 9th grade. I enjoyed the teacher and I have enjoyed sports all my life. I played baseball in high school and then I walked on at Whitworth and started as a freshman on the baseball team.  

I turned out for centerfield, and we did well. Art Smith was the coach at that time, and he expected the best of us. I wish I would have listened to him a little bit more, especially when he talked about hitting! Paul Merkel '44 was the coach for 1957 and '58. It was a good four years of playing ball. I had a fantastic friend, Al Bare '58, who played second base. We hung out all the time and had a few classes together our freshman year.

The summer after my freshman year, I was sitting on the davenport at home, reading the Bible, and I thought, "What do I really want to do?" It was like God told me to be a teacher, and that's what I did.

My first job was teaching 6th grade in Stevenson, Wash., a little logging community on the Columbia River right behind the Bonneville Dam. I taught all the subjects as well as physical education. The next two years I was the 8th grade teacher and I taught P.E. to grades four through eight. The year after that I became assistant principal. 

After I was the assistant principal, I went back to the classroom for one year in Stevenson as a 6th grade teacher. And then my wife, Janice, and I heard about the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program. We applied in 1963 and a year later we received a letter from Washington, D.C., saying we had been accepted.

Steve Fox comes eye to eye with a Western screech owl while doing a study for the Earthwatch Institute.

So Janice and I moved to Australia. I taught 6th grade in Toowoomba, a city of about 50,000 people about 80 miles west of Brisbane. We were there from September 1964 to September '65. 

From Australia I went back to Stevenson and taught for one year because that was the Fulbright's requirement. And then I applied for a position with Tacoma Public Schools. I taught sixth grade for a year and then I switched to teaching physical education full time. I spent the next 33 years teaching elementary P.E. 

My job in Tacoma included serving as one of the first traveling teachers to equip classroom teachers with P.E. lessons they could carry out with their classes. Our small group of traveling P.E. teachers was given national recognition from the President's Council on Physical Fitness.

The most rewarding thing for me about teaching was giving children an opportunity to do things they didn't know they could do. There was a lot of skills building, a lot of basic knowledge building. A lot of the kids did not know what kind of talents they had until they experienced them.

In 1994 I received an International Teaching Fellowship to Australia. I taught P.E. in a little village called Lakes Entrance, Victoria. I'd always wanted to live in a fishing village, just to be near the ocean and have a different lifestyle. If I don't make it to heaven, that'll be as close as I come.

I taught for a total of 40 years, and I never had a bad word written about me on the school walls!

God has always been an important part of my life. I can't preach or convince people very well, but I can live by example. That's what I've been trying to do. A scripture verse that helps guide me is: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

After I retired, Janice and I made it our goal to do two major trips a year. A major trip for us was a minimum of six weeks. We did a couple that way and then she passed on in 2000. There was a year or so after my wife died that was pretty tough. But then I thought, "You know, I've got to do something different."

One of my wife's friends had done a Global Volunteer project in Romania. I signed up, and my first volunteer project was in Worthington, Minn., in 2003, helping immigrants converse in English. It was a total disaster but I thought, "Can it really be this bad?" I did another, then I did an Earthwatch project and I thought, "Oh, this is fun." After that I jumped back and forth between Global Volunteers and Earthwatch. Altogether I did 22 service projects with Global Volunteers in countries including Vietnam, Cuba, Peru and Ecuador.

The Earthwatch Institute deals with the earth and sciences, ecology, animal studies, archeology. My first project was an archeological dig in New Mexico. I did a total of seven digs in Italy, Thailand and other countries, and I did seven animal studies. I tracked brown hyenas in South Africa and small mammals in Nova Scotia. I tracked koalas in Australia and studied how they were impacted by deforestation, and I tracked owls in Arizona.

Steve Fox has taught English to students in Poland every summer since 2015. (Photo taken in 2018.)

I've been going to Poland every year since 2015. I have fallen in love with the country and the people and the kids over there. I teach English at a summer camp for youths from ages 12 up to 17. It's total engagement with the kids. There are usually six volunteers and about 60 campers. Our job is to work with the children on conversational English. I have about 18 students from over the years who I'm in touch with all the time. I just chatted with two of them online this morning.

I have a bucket list I'm working on that includes visiting every Major League baseball park. I just finished the two teams in Texas and I'm down to three ballparks – it looks like I'll finish up in the Midwest next summer.

I played slow pitch baseball until I was about 43, and then I realized my reaction time wasn't there. So I took up jogging and I ran for 22 years. I logged over 28,000 miles and 294 races. My goal was 300, but my body didn't make it. 

I had double hip replacements, so then I thought, "Well, I'll have to start riding my bike." I try to ride at least 60 miles a week when the weather is decent. The last five years I've put pretty close to 10,000 miles on my bike. I have biked the length of the Erie Canal and I also biked the Netherlands. One of my goals was to ride 2,000 miles a year in 100 days. I did that for two years, and then my goal dropped to 1,700 miles a year for three years. The year before last I went to Australia, so I didn't get many miles. Last year, because of the pandemic, I rode 2,200 miles. I put more miles on my bike than I did on my car. 

Everybody says, "All you ever talk about is time and distance." It's always been one of my things. When I started running, my goal was to see if I could break 40 minutes on a 10k, and then for how many years I could do that. It's just my nature, I guess. 

Life doesn't end when you retire – keep moving on. There are other things to do out there. Travel has become my hobby. When I'm sitting at home, I'm working on plans for my next trip. Right now, I'm planning my trip to Poland next summer.