After 37 years of teaching, Rowley man pens 'The Final One Eighty'

COURTESY PHOTO. Rowley author Dennis Donaghue

ROWLEY — Dennis Donaghue spent more than 50 years of his life in school and lived to tell the tale in his first book "The Final One Eighty."

Donaghue worked as a teacher for 37 years, finishing his career teaching sixth grade for 15 years at Salisbury Elementary School before he retired in 2014.

"Sixth grade is a vital year," he said. "It is sort of on the cusp of being a child and being an adult. What I enjoyed about the sixth grade is that you can have adult conversations with 12 year olds. But, at the same time, you need to understand that they are children and they have the needs of children with the curiosity of adults."

Donaghue's wife Carla Panciera is a published author herself and Donaghue began to see a market not being filled in the book world as his retirement was fast approaching.

"I had read a lot of books by first-year teachers but I didn't read anything written by someone at the very end of his career," he said. "So, I kept a journal for my last year."

He spend a good three years after he retired working on his memoir which was published in May as "The Final One Eighty" chronicling the last 180 days of his teaching career.

"I started school when I was six years old in 1961," Donaghue said. "Then, for the next 50 years, I was in a school system. Here I was getting cast out into the world after 50 years."

According to Donaghue, his book is less about his students and co-workers and more about the process he went through facing down his final days in school.

"I really wrote it for other teachers," Donaghue said. "They told me it portrayed what it is like to be a teacher. Kids were in my class and obviously I was a teacher, but it really wasn't about them at all. This is about the experience for me in my 37th year of teaching and then walking out that door."

Donaghue retired to his farm in Rowley and he has also recently been licensed as a certified nursing assistant.

"Leaving really was kind of scary to be honest," Donaghue said of his long teaching career. "I rejoiced in June and despaired on Labor Day. That I've been going on since I was six years old."

According to Donaghue, his first Labor Day weekend of retirement was "a weird feeling."

"I spent a lot of time building up the soil in the fall," Donaghue said. "So that sort of took my mind off of what I had left. But that really is the point of the whole book. Is about being jettisoned from an institution that had had me basically since I was six years old. I wasn't quite sure how I was going to manage that."

Donaghue's also said his wife's help was invaluable in writing his own book.

"We do our own thing," he said. "We are both writers and we respect each other's space. I read her stuff, she reads my stuff and we critique each other."

Donaghue continues to write and said he currently works a few shifts a week as a CNA.

"I'm keeping busy," Donaghue said. "That's for sure."

"The Final One Eighty" by Dennis Donaghue; www.amazon.com/Final-One-Eighty-memoir/dp/195257031X

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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