Remembering Dave Goby

David Goby — a longtime science teacher at Staples High School and Bedford Junior High — died yesterday.  The cause was complications of lymphoma treatment, many years ago.

Dave Goby, in the 1970s. He thought this was a hilarious photo.

After retiring from Staples, Dave taught at Ezra Academy in Woodbridge.  He also founded Merkaz, a community high school for Judaic studies in Bridgeport, and served as director there for 12 years.

He is survived by Ilene, his wife of 43 years; sons Jonathan of Fairfield and Adam of Florida; daughter Robyn of North Carolina, and 4 grandchildren.

Services are tomorrow (Tuesday), 2 p.m. at Congregation B’nai Israel, 2710 Park Avenue in Bridgeport.

Contributions may be made to the David Goby Merkaz Fund, c/o Merkaz, 4200 Park Ave. Bridgeport, CT 06604.


Starting in 1975, Dave taught in Staples’ Alternatives program.  An interdisciplinary project that reached out to alienated, disaffected youngsters, it lasted only a few years.

However,  its impact on the students — and teachers — who participated was enormous.   In 2004, I interviewed Dave about Alternatives for my book “Staples High School:  120 Years of A+ Education.”

Dave said:

There were so many disenfranchised kids who were not functioning well in school, because of emotional, family or learning problems.  Every school deals with those kids in a different way.  A lot of schools give them detentions or suspend them, but that doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

Most of what we tried to do involving traditional academics didn’t work.  So we had to be creative, to disguise the social studies, English, science or math, and teach it through the back door.  We didn’t necessarily work on each discipline each day.

It wasn’t easy.  We were really looked down on – not by the faculty; they said they admired what we were doing, and couldn’t do it themselves – but by the other kids.  They thought our kids were the dregs of the school.

We were very successful, but we became the dumping ground for all kids who had any problems.  We didn’t solve problems overnight.  It took a lot of hard work, a long time for kids to settle down.

It didn’t last long, in part because so many kids had emotional and special ed issues.  Then the state mandates for special education were handed down, and more and more kids suddenly became officially mandated to the special ed program.

Our program decreased in direct proportion to the rise in special education.  We saw that special ed would eventually absorb our kids, so rather than die a slow death, we decided to end it on our terms.  We died a graceful death, with dignity.

But the program worked.  So many kids came back later, and said it kept them in school.  They may not have loved Alternatives, but they liked it better than the rest of school.

And they told us it looked like we really cared. We gave them a lot of individual attention.  We had community meetings, and we met individually with them a lot. We learned a lot about kids that way.

It was absolutely right for the times.  And today — if you’re diagnosed with a special ed condition, you’re covered.  But if you’re just a troubled kid who could fall through the cracks, there’s still a need for an alternative school.  Kids haven’t changed that much.

19 responses to “Remembering Dave Goby

  1. This is sad for Westport and a great loss for the community of Westport teachers. Dave was a great junior high school science teacher at Bedford before he went to Staples. He was a supportive colleague, a thoughtful teacher, and a courageous cancer survivor. In my mind he goes on forever.

  2. I had Dave for some kind of environmental science class in 1972. (Ecology?) He was a huge-hearted, lovely man who really cared about his students. That was the year, I believe, that he was first diagnosed with lymphoma. I remember him being very ill and his hair turning white. (Did it ever get dark again?) I’m happy to hear that he lived many more years and continued making such a difference in kids’ lives.

  3. First Mr. Rollins and now Mr. Goby?! This is very sad news.

    I always hated science, and just didn’t have the brains for it, so I was in Mr. Goby’s Unified Science class my senior year in ’93/’94 and I ended up lovin it. I was in the class because I was lazy, but my classmates did have a lot of learning/emotional problems. Somehow he got us all interested in it.

    Somehow, despite me being an “art” kid, and applying to art colleges that had no science, I ended up asking Mr. Goby to write me a letter of recommendation for my colleges and it was a great letter.

    We had a little ritual when i would see him. I would say, in a slightly nasal voice, “Hi Mr. Goby,” and he would say “Hi Mr. Goby” in the same voice back to me. I only saw him one time after college, several years after I graduated and the first thing we said to each other was, “Hi Mr. Goby.”

  4. Great teacher! I was in Alternatives 1/2 of my 10th grade year and all of my junior year. My senior year i went back into the main stream curriculum and got 2nd honors and 1st honors that year.
    They did really care and made me tune back into school again. I remember loving that math was balancing a check book and science was figuring out how to insulate a house. It made sense to me where algebra didn’t. Don’t think i would have made it if I didn’t have Alternatives at that time in my life. Goby was a great teacher who was so committed. He was very much appreciated and will be so missed.

  5. I remember high school science because of him – thank you Mr. Goby!

  6. Like so many other students, Mr. Goby made a positive, lasting impression on me. (I know I have one of my papers saved in the attic!) When one of my children was taking his class, he invited me back to give a guest lecture. It was a thrill and another great experience in his classroom. Condolences to his family — his passing is very sad news.

  7. I enjoyed reading Dave’s comments on the Alternatives program. While I wasn’t a part of the team, I remember admiring what they accomplished and their approachable style. On a personal note, I relished Dave’s humor and his giving nature. Any encounters we had, left me smiling.

    To Dave’s family, your husband, father and grandfather made a difference in the lives of others.

  8. Mr. Goby was a wonderful teacher. I have fond memories of his class and wish the best to his family. He made an impact, not just an impression.

  9. Michael Lazaroff

    Dave always had a kind heart, and a serious drive to improve what he did in the classroom. I had the pleasure of working with Dave during multiple summers, two as a member of the K-12 Science committee, and one as a team (with Kaye Sullivan and Bruce McFadden) designing the online Westport Learning Network (the WLN), which was the precursor to eChalk and Blackboard. Dave was a man who truly loved what he did, and the schools in which he worked, and indeed the world, are the poorer for his absence. He truly was a Mensch.

  10. Mr. Goby was a wonderful spirit. He always had a smile for everyone. Although he wasn’t my teacher at Staples, he always took the time to say hello and show he cared. He was a great guy, one that students admired and looked up to. He made being a teenager a little easier.

  11. Dave was one of the nicest people at Staples. He was not a teacher of either of my children, but made my experience as a staff member there a better one because of his kind and gentle presence. I hope his family is surrounded with love and support and send out a special hug to Adam. Fran White

  12. Mr. Goby was a wonderful teacher; easily my favorite teacher at Staples (class of ’01), and I always looked forward to attending his Science class. He had an uncanny knack for making me laugh, as well as all of his students, even on the worst of days. I’m deeply saddened to hear of this news, and my prayers are with his family.

  13. He was one of the best science teacher i ever had. this is so sad… he made science class interesting. RIP Mr goby

  14. I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Dave on the faculty at Bedford when we began our careers and later when he joined the faculty of Staples. Because of his intelligence and integrity, he had the respect and affection of all of us who knew him. The world is a little less at his passing but much richer because of his life. He will be missed.

  15. I remember him as a very young BJHS teacher and although I never had him for a class remember his youth and his warmth. It’s hard to imagine that this rich, full life has ended.

  16. Gerry Kuroghlian

    Dave Goby was a gifted teacher who reached out to his students and colleagues in a positive, caring and supportive way. His contribution to the Alternative program is a major part of his legacy to Staples HS. May his wife and children be supported by the love we have for him.
    Gerry Kuroghlian

  17. Robyn

    I’m copying everyone on this email because I wanted all to know that during my visit with David this past Friday, it was only until recently that, through the outpouring of emotion and visits by family and friends, he realized how loved he was by all of us. Perhaps we can all find some solace in knowing that.

    For Cousin David. God may have taken you from us this morning but you will live forever in our hearts and minds for eternity. You were loved by all and I take great comfort in knowing that you left us finally realizing how loved you were.


  18. That should remind us to let others know they are loved. It’s something David could get behind. So glad, he felt the outpooring of love and that it made a difference. Judy

  19. I was just talking about him the other day…..this makes me very sad.
    One of my favorite teachers from Staples High School….1976/1977
    I remember him with a big smile on his face.
    Thanks for making 10th grade a little easier, Mr. Goby.