The North Bend Eagle

  North Bend driver's ed
Dan Watts, right, poses with driver's ed students Lauren Emanuel, Megan Ortmeier and Jenna Byrd before hitting the road for a driving lesson. This will be Watts' final summer of teaching driver's ed.

Three decades of Watts' instruction leaves roads safer

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 7/20/16

Dan Watts has been teaching driver’s education classes for so long he can’t remember when he started. It’s been about 30 or 32 years. Probably.

Dan Watts

But it is time to call it quits. Watts held his last driver’s ed class this summer.
Watts, 67, taught at North Bend Central for 36 years, retiring in 2010. He was a social studies and world history teacher, computer guru, media center czar and coach. His driver’s ed tenure began when fellow NBC teacher Jim Dodge needed help teaching driver’s ed in Schuyler and asked Watts to help. Watts stayed there for two years before being asked to teach driver’s ed in David City, where he stayed until 2001.

Rick Watson was teaching driver’s ed in North Bend all this time. Watts eventually took over the North Bend driver’s ed when Watson retired and for two years did David City and North Bend.

“It got to be a scheduling nightmare,” Watts said. “I know one summer I had 128 (students). That was the biggest year in North Bend. We had 78 in the library. That was one crowded mess.”

North Bend typically enrolled around 50 students in driver’s ed, including some students from Prague and Fremont. Recently, enrollment has been in the mid-30s.

“It’s a scheduling problem with all the camps they have,” Watts said. “You want to get done before detasseling starts. In those days you had to drive everybody six hours. You’re in the car a lot of hours.”

In order to teach driver’s education Watts had to take nine, then 12 college credit courses: a first aid class, traffic safety I and II, and more recently, a competency class so that he could give the driver’s test.

It used to be that all students had to drive with the instructor for six hours. Now students only have to drive two hours and then they can test out and be done. Watts said the majority of this year’s class only needed the two hours.

“That made it a lot better,” Watts said. “Here you get so many farm kids that have been driving and some already had school permits and are just doing it for insurance. You get a better quality of driver.”

Typically the worst drivers are the town kids just turning 15. They don’t get the experience or the repetition.

“Some of them you get they’ve never steered anything,” Watts said. “You ask them if they’ve ever ridden a bicycle, anything. They don’t understand corners. It’s like ‘wow.’”

Watts has lots of funny stories to tell with his experience.


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