By Sheridan Block
After years spent making Ouray his home, high school English teacher Ben DeGear and his family will be moving to the Front Range next month.
DeGear's wife Mariah took a job as director of operations with Good Day Pharmacy in Loveland, and the family will be relocating to Fort Collins at the end of the school year.
Originally from Minnesota, DeGear attended the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus where he received a bachelor's degree in English and master's degree in education. Before moving to Ouray in 2004, he taught sixth grade English in Minneapolis, Minn.
Ben's passion for music played a role in bringing him out to the Western Slope. After visiting Telluride for several years as his friends played in the town's Bluegrass Festival, he decided to apply for a teaching position. Though a full-time job wasn't available in Telluride at the time, a position opened in Ouray and he has been here ever since.
In his nine years of teaching high school English at Ouray School, DeGear was also the advisor for the National Honor Society and oversaw journalism efforts at the school, including the student's weekly Trojan Tribune in the Plaindealer. He also served as the assistant basketball coach for the middle and high school basketball teams and was head coach for the middle school team when they won Mountain League Championships in 2008.
The highlight of his teaching career was the annual Washington, D.C., trips for the junior government class. Last year, DeGear planned the trip himself and successfully took his students out to D.C. for a week on a budget of about $1,000 per student.
"Ben has a rapport with the students that is rare indeed," said colleague Di Rushing. "He has a wacky but keen sense of humor that students and teachers appreciate every day."
Aside from teaching, DeGear was also involved with many community activities. Since 2006, he has been a member of the Volunteer Fire Department and he served on city council from November 2009 to July 2010.
It was in Ouray where Ben and his wife met while he worked as a part-time bartender at O'Brien's. Their daughter Savannah was born on Sept. 26, 2009, and currently attends preschool in Ouray. While Mariah transferred to Loveland in November, Ben and Savannah commute on the weekends as he finishes out the school year. They will be moving to Fort Collins two days after school is out.
Though he doesn't have a teaching job lined up after this year, DeGear said he is looking to do things outside of public education, including pursuing his doctorate in education.
The most difficult part of relocating, he said, will be finding another community as closely knit as Ouray.
"After nine years, it's hard to imagine dealing with that many people again," he said. "I love it here. (Ouray) has taught me how to be a part of a family and a lot about what it meant to live in a real community."