Seasoned teachers reflect on their changes, experiences throughout time spent at Gunn: Paul Dunlap


Wendy Xiong

Angela Wong, News Editor

A sea of adults fresh out of college, eyes wide in anticipation of the next stage of their professional lives, swam up and down the stands of potential teaching positions at the Santa Clara job fair. One face in particular—a California Polytechnic State University San Louis Obispo graduate with degrees in English and School Administration now better known as English teacher Paul Dunlap—floated among the crowds, eyes set on the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) stand. “Don’t bother applying,” his friends advised. “Nobody ever gets a job because it’s a desirable district. The people that get hired never leave.” Dunlap grabbed an application, determined to prove his friends wrong—he was hired in Sept. 1994.

Nonetheless, he knew that Gunn was his second home from the moment he had stepped on campus. “I was walking across the quad, and I couldn’t believe students were voluntarily talking to teachers,” he said. “It was so foreign to my experience.”

While Dunlap spent his entire teaching career at PAUSD, he attended 13 different schools before high school. These frequent changes led to Dunlap’s interest in holding leadership positions, translating into a love for teaching. “I was always leaving my friends, so I decided to prioritize school work instead, because that was constant,” he said. “In every school, hard work pays off. In high school, I had some really great teachers, which planted the idea that I can be like them one day, too.”

Throughout his 26 years at Gunn, Dunlap has noticed an array of technological shifts in his classroom, such as the replacement of chalkboards with SmartBoards. Even so,he maintains an intentionally old-school teaching style. “If the power goes off, we still have our books—and they work!” Dunlap said. “We spend less time silently thinking and reading, yet we cheat this by quickly moving from one task to another rather than sustaining a longer thought.” Likewise, cellphone usage has been increasingly excessive over the years. “Before, students weren’t on their phones,” he said. “They were on life. On person-to-person interaction.”

Despite it all, Dunlap remains bewildered by how fast his years at Gunn have seemingly passed. “I’ve always looked up to Mr. Shelby and Mr. Liberatore, so to be grouped with them is an honor,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for them.”