At 94 years old, Dale “Doc” Woodburn has worked for Prince George’s County schools longer than most teachers and principals have been alive.
The College Park resident has held positions at nearly a dozen schools in his 67-year career, including jobs as math teacher, a department chairman, a vice principal, a principal, and now, a tutor and cafeteria supervisor at Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg.
“I’m still going,” said Woodburn, sporting a bright blue tie and American flag lapel pin for one of his cafeteria shifts. “At age 94, I guess that’s pretty good.”
At a Saturday event at Seton, Woodburn was honored alongside other staff and faculty who had been with the school more than 25 years.
“Throughout the years, Doc Woodburn has served the Seton community as a teacher and math tutor,” said principal Sharon Pasterick. “He continues to be a positive presence in our school, especially as he interacts with our students. [He] is a model to us all for growing old gracefully.”
Woodburn took his first public school job in 1947 after he returned from Okinawa, where he was deployed with the Army during World War II, he said. He taught at Surrattsville High School in Clinton and Greenbelt Senior Junior High while on active reserve with the military until he was deployed to South Korea in 1951, he said.
It was at Greenbelt that he met his late wife, Lucille Woodburn, who was a home economics teacher there, Woodburn said.
After returning from Korea, Woodburn worked at several newly opened schools, including High Point High School in Beltsville and Bel Air High School, he said.
In 1970, Woodburn became principal of DuVal Senior High School in Lanham, which he said was one of his favorite jobs. At DuVal, Woodburn oversaw 2,700 students and 135 teachers, he said.
“I was just very comfortable running that school,” he said. “But my time at [Seton] has been perfect. I just enjoy being with the people and working with the girls and getting to know them.”
Woodburn’s transition from the public school system to private schools came in 1980 after a temporary retirement.
“I retired in 1980, but I couldn’t stand retirement,” he said. “So I looked at the papers and saw they needed a math teacher at Academy of the Holy Names [in Silver Spring].”
After eight years there, Woodburn took a teaching position at Seton and has worked for the school ever since, he said.
Woodburn supervises lunches in the cafeteria five days a week and tutors when needed. He said he gets anxious when he has to miss a day or two for health reasons, like he did at the beginning of April.
“I was miserable,” he said. “I sat there and tried to read, but I would look at the clock and think about what I would be doing if I was at school.”
Carolyn Bernache of College Park, Woodburn’s neighbor, said she is inspired by the career educator’s work ethic and stamina.
“Here’s a person who’s in their 90s who is my role model,” she said “My gosh, he’s getting up every day and teaching kids. That’s pretty darn good.”
Bernache herself is a retired teacher who taught for 37 years and now works part time at High Point, she said.
“I’ve been with the county a long time, but not as long as Dale,” she said.
Woodburn said his motivation comes from the young people he works with and the fact that he has always enjoyed his job.
“I’ve never been bored. Never for a moment,” he said. “When you get up in the morning, you have to look forward to going into work. And I do look forward to it. Even at 94 years old.”