Dan Mancoff, the veteran Riverside-Brookfield High School English teacher who pumped new life into the student newspaper when he moved it to an entirely online operation, has resigned his position and is moving to the Seattle area to take a new job.
He’ll teach next year at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, Washington which is about 25 miles east of Seattle.
Mancoff said that a host of reasons factored into his decision to leave RBHS and the Chicago area. His wife, who is from North Carolina, had a hard time dealing with recent harsh Chicago winters and wanted to live in a more temperate climate.
And Mancoff, who was part of the team of teachers who taught in the School for Environmental Education (SEE Team) interdisciplinary program for freshmen also wanted to live in an area where it was easier to live an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.
The decision by the RBHS administration not to offer the SEE Team program this coming school year due to low enrollment also prompted Mancoff to reassess where he wanted to spend his future.
“Even though SEE team was not permanently suspended, the fact that the fact that it was going to be off for a year just gave me time stop and take pause and think about what I wanted,” Mancoff said. “I wouldn’t say it was the only factor, but it was a factor.”
Mancoff taught at RBHS for 16 years after teaching for one year at Freeport Junior High School. He grew up in Wilmette and graduated from New Trier High School and Brown University.
In 2006 he became the advisor the student newspaper, the Clarion, despite having no journalistic experience. He did so at the request of then English Department Chairman George Miller after the previous faculty advisor left.
Under Mancoff the Clarion evolved from an entirely ink on paper operation to one that, other than a few special issues each year, is entirely an online publication. In 2010 and again in 2013 the Clarion won the Online Pacemaker award from the National Scholastic Press Association, which is given to online high school newspapers that rank in the top 10 percent in the country.
During Mancoff’s time at the helm, the Clarion reported not only on student activities, but also aggressively covered the school board and the administration, at times ruffling some feathers in the process. In recent years some on the school board and in the administration occasionally perceived the Clarion as a little bit hostile and more aligned with the teachers union against the administration and school board.
In 2013 the Clarion made plans to host an online forum for school board candidates in a hotly contested race, but the school administration cancelled the event saying that students, not Mancoff, should have invited the candidates to participate in the forum.
The Clarion cried censorship. Incumbent school board members Matt Sinde and Mike Welch, along with their running mate Ed Jepson did not respond to the invitations to appear at the online forum before the forum was cancelled while the three other candidates all said that they were interested in participating.
Sinde, Welch, and Jepson were ultimately elected.
Katie Maxwell was the editor-in-chief of the Clarion in 2012-13. She took a class from Mancoff every year of her high school career, and Mancoff was her freshman honors English teacher when Maxwell was part of the SEE Team.
“I thought he was an excellent teacher,” said Maxwell, who will be a junior at St. Olaf College in the fall. “I learned all kinds of things from him. He’s a very kind person. He works very well with students.”
In both his role as the SEE Team English teacher and as advisor to the Clarion Mancoff helped Maxwell learn to think critically.
“Mr. Mancoff exposed us to a number of really influential environmental books that helped me open my eyes to new way of thinking about the world and analyzing the world,” Maxwell said.
At the Clarion, Mancoff let students largely run the show, but provided instruction, advice and guidance, when needed.
“He especially emphasized the opportunity for the students to try things out and learn and ask questions,” Maxwell said. “He definitely provided guidance and steered the ship in the right direction.”
Mancoff’s career at RBHS has spanned a number of administrations. He was hired before Jack Baldermann came to RBHS and has worked under four superintendents and five principals.
Mancoff says that the atmosphere has changed at RBHS in recent years.
“I think that in the time that I have been there things have become a little bit more like a business than a family, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Mancoff said. “I think there has to be some balance in the way that a school runs, but that was definitely a change.”
A successor to Mancoff as faculty advisor to the Clarion has not yet been named.