Yerian’s first teaching job at the age of 22 was as a high school chemistry teacher in Harrodsburg. He taught at the school for several years until a principal position became available. He spent seven years serving as the middle and high school principal at Harrodsburg Independent. The position was challenging for Yerian, who found himself in the unenviable role of strict disciplinarian.
“I don’t think I smiled for seven years,” Yerian said.
So, after 31 years, Yerian said he “couldn’t wait to retire,” and that he had no intention of ever going back into a classroom or school. But after just six months, “I was bored to death!”
Yerian returned to the classroom and taught for one year in Jessamine County, before he stumbled across an internet posting for a science teacher in Henry County.
“I had never heard of Henry County. Basically, I had to look it up on a map to see where it was,” Yerian said with a smile. “I had no idea where it was.”
Yerian has been with the district for 17 years, and in that time has had an enormous impact on the students and staff at Henry County High School. Of those who have had the distinct pleasure of working with Yerian, all agree that he cares deeply about his students and co-workers.
“Dale isn’t someone that looks for the limelight. He has a special way of going about being supportive,” Sageser said. “He has sent me countless notes of thanks and encouragement over the years. Dale makes a point to praise me in my work as principal and never lets me forget that I am appreciated.”
It is an established and well documented habit of Yerian’s to think of the needs of others over his own.
“What stands out to me most about Mr. Yerian is the way he puts everyone before himself. He builds up those around him and it is that type of character that is so inspiring, he just makes you want to go above and beyond to be the very best you can be,” said Henry County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Masters, who was previously Yerian’s principal. “In a world that is so quick to criticize or tear down, he is one who builds, inspires and promotes the good in all of us.”
When a fellow teacher was diagnosed with a brain tumor, Yerian stepped in to do whatever was needed to alleviate some of the burden from his co-worker.
“While dealing with the diagnosis, Dale was supportive and helpful. Lesson planning for at least six weeks while worrying about my health was a daunting task for me. Dale selflessly gave up his planning period to teach one of my classes while I was out recovering. He continued to come into my classroom and help me when I returned to work but wasn't quite 100 percent,” said Lisa Huckaby, a former teacher at HCHS. “I would not have survived that year without him!”
Yerian said he will certainly miss his co-workers, all those he cares so much about, but it’s his time in the classroom with his students that he will find the most difficult to be without.
“I’m going to miss the kids in general,” Yerian said through a lump in his throat. “I just enjoy them. I enjoy being around kids; they keep me young.”
When asked if kids have changed over the years, Yerian said he didn’t think so, but admitted that he had changed quite a bit from age 22 to 72.
“Kids are the same as they’ve always been; kids will do what they can get away with,” Yerian said “But I’ve changed. I’m much more relaxed that I used to be, and I try to make learning fun, much more than I used to. When I was a principal, it was at a really rough school, like an inner-city school. Every week we had somebody taken out in handcuffs. It was so refreshing to come here where the biggest issues were students passing notes, talking in class and chewing gum.”
For anyone interested in teaching, Yerian has a word of advice.
“Laugh. Laugh a lot, at both yourself and the kids. I try to make the kids laugh every day. We have a good time,” Yerian said. “And you have to enjoy teaching. For heaven’s sake, don’t get into it as an alternative. It’s got to be your Plan A.”
Yerian’s genuine love of teaching is very apparent to those who have observed him in the classroom.
“Dale loves teaching! He has a gift of communicating and teaching on so many levels. After a long day of teaching high school kids, you could always find Dale setting up an experiment or teaching a fascinating science concept to the elementary-aged children of the teachers in the building,” Huckaby said. “I was amazed by Dale's ability to talk about so many different topics. Watching Dale do demonstrations and listening to him lecture was a thing of beauty! He inspired me to learn more about chemistry so I could hope to one day share that with students like he did. I also admired his easy-going personality; he never seemed rattled in the classroom and that calmness carried over to his students.”
And Yerian’s students love him and his classes even though some of the content he teaches can be challenging. He’s inspired future teachers, nurses, scientists, engineers, lawyers, and so many more over the course of the last five decades.
“Dale has left a lasting impact on his students and this school that can’t be quantified,” Sageser added. “It’s immeasurable and so very much appreciated, but his retirement is so very much deserved as well.”
In January of this year, Yerian married his wife Jane, who is a retired guidance counselor. The couple loves to travel, especially to the Caribbean and St. Maarten in particular. Yerian hopes to add a few cruises to the 16 he’s already taken (“I love cruising!”), and when not traveling will spend time gardening and woodworking.
“Yeah, I’m going to miss it,” Yerian said. “But I’m looking forward to my retirement – again.”