Stanford recognizes veteran beloved English teacher


A teacher here since 1983, English teacher David Wood has served his students for the longest duration of any teacher at Northgate, an astounding 35 years. Wood and his teaching resonate with students long after they have left Northgate, as indicated by an honor Wood recently received.

Alumnus Rina Horii received the J.E. Wallace Sterling Scholastic Award for distinguished academic performance at Stanford University. The awards are presented only to the top seniors in the School of Humanities and Sciences. Asked to nominate a pre-college teacher who influenced her the most in her academic career, Horii chose to honor Wood.

“I was in Mr. Wood’s Honors English class and I am grateful for the ways in which he pushed me to think deeply about ideas that mattered beyond the classroom,” Horii said, “He gave me confidence in my ability to think beyond my ability to solve an equation or take a test.”

Horii graduated from Northgate in 2014, and now, four years later, is getting ready to graduate with a degree in Psychology at Stanford. She has been studying social health psychology with Dr. Alia Crum at the Mind and Body Lab and hopes to pursue a PhD in psychology.

“This past winter break I found my journal that we were required to keep during the class and reread through the questions, quotes, and reflections that I had written,” Horii said. “I felt engaged with the literature–but not for literature’s sake alone. Mr. Wood created one of the most comfortable classroom settings that I have ever been in, and he was able to convey that the material really meant something. When I came to Stanford, I brought this drive to find and create meaning with me and it has influenced the way I approach my education, research, and interactions with the people around me.”

Horii’s favorite memories of the class are reading Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, and the Honors English class trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.
“That was the first time I had ever seen Shakespeare performed live and it was such a different experience from reading the plays. We saw a gorgeous production of The Tempest, which remains one of my favorites to this day,” Horii said.

Wood, who will attend a luncheon at Stanford in April as part of his and Horii’s honor, said he is “astonished and humbled” to receive the prestigious recognition. “It’s always nice to receive affirmation for what you do, particularly from the students who are our very best and who we as teachers admire. And Rina was one of those,” Wood said. “She is probably one of the best all-around students I have ever seen, as this award shows. In class she was almost dead quiet, never said much, but she was absolutely that attentive, too. And then she would write or do a presentation that would be among the best you’ve ever seen.”

Wood still recalls reading her first essay. “I couldn’t believe how competent, how erudite and deep it was, and as was her work the entire year. To get an honor from somebody like that really is reaffirming and I’m very proud of it,” he said.

Wood’s passion for teaching is easy to identify within his classroom, present and past students say.
“I have never gotten bored with the classroom. Other things around here, definitely, but not the classroom, and not the kids,” Wood said. “I always find those whom I want to work with, who I feel I’m helping, and who keep me alive, and for that reason, I keep doing it, and I think, for the most part, my students share the same kind of enthusiasm when they walk out of here that I do.”

As an English teacher, Wood said that his goal is “to engage students, to help them think, to make them literate, and show them the importance of their humanity and how literature and writing and self-expression helps them in that”.

“I hope for my students to be the most full person they can be,” Wood said. “There are a lot of people at Northgate who have real serious psychological issues and it seems to be growing more and more every year… so my goal is to make a place where those people can thrive and take that out of here so that they can believe in themselves,” Wood explained. “As an English teacher, the more we can make a literate society, the more we can make people who believe in stories and in the truth of stories, the more humane our society will be.”