Teacher ready for next adventure after 45 years at Carmel High School


After 45 years of teaching at Carmel High School, Dan Bates is ready for his next adventure.

A few days after the school year ends, the 73-year-old economics teacher plans to drive across the nation to his new home in Colorado, where he will reunite with his wife, Beth. The couple has been living apart since October, but once Bates is officially retired, they plan to make up for lost time skiing and hiking in the mountains together.

“(Teaching) is a closed chapter. I’ve moved on,” he said. “There’s nothing about my job I ever disliked, but there was never anything that I liked enough to never leave.”

Bates grew up in Beech Grove, and before he seriously considered teaching he held a series of odd jobs, including tennis instructor, catching animals for the Dept. of Natural Resources and as a night watchman during Universal Pictures filming of “Winning” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

During his first stint at Indiana University, he studied Russian, but he stopped attending school before completing his degree. Eventually, he decided he needed to choose a career, and he gave teaching a try because he liked the idea of having summers off work. He completed a degree in political science at IU and accepted his first teaching job at a middle school in north Indianapolis. It wasn’t a great fit.

“(Teaching) middle school just takes a special kind of person,” Bates said.

Fortunately for Bates, CHS principal Dale Graham contacted him after his first year in the classroom and asked him to consider teaching in Carmel. Bates accepted the job, although he didn’t know much about the community at the time.

“All I knew of Carmel was when I was in high school, I played my first varsity basketball game in (the CHS) gym,” he said. “I remember driving here in the bus, that it was just farmland. There was nothing between where I lived and Carmel. I just figured it was way out in the boonies somewhere.”

Bates soon became comfortable working with high school students and decided to commit to teaching for his career. He initially taught remedial world geography and sociology (before computers were commonplace) and later transitioned to teaching AP classes in economics after working to introduce the advanced courses to CHS.

After 45 years of teaching, Bates said he is most proud of the large number of students he was able to impact by writing letters of recommendation or helping them work through a difficult problem.

“I didn’t have to do something extraordinary to make that happen,” he said.

He also treasures the friendships he built among “three generations” of teachers he worked alongside at CHS. He’s always been surrounded by supportive coworkers, but he said their care and concern stood out two years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer during the pandemic.

As part of his treatment, he had his tonsils removed, but before the surgery a fellow teacher sent a package from St. Elmo with steak, shrimp and other delicacies for Bates to enjoy before his diet became limited.

“It was like the Last Supper,” Bates said, tearing up. “It touched me.”

Now cancer free, Bates, who has two adult daughters, is looking forward to the future and remembering his past with a grateful heart.

“(I’ve had the) best life ever, with a great childhood and a great job,” he said. “I’ve helped a lot of people along the way, and I feel good about what I did.”


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