Life Experiences Pave the Way for Veteran History Teacher

Paul Orchard with son Family is a driving force for veteran history teacher Paul Orchard. By Gavin Wilson

Eagle's Eye Online


Seven jobs -- construction, landscaping, working in a greenhouse, law enforcement, painting, installing inground pools, and working at the Village Pantry. Put together they form the experience of a teacher, Mr. Paul Orchard, who has been at Delta High School more than 30 years.

He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but was raised 20 minutes away in Medina County; a place home to hills, ravines, ridges, valleys, ledges, and forests.

Orchard grew up with an older sister, Susan, two younger brothers, Mark and Nathan, his mom, Frances, and dad, Paul.

His low-income family was close, supportive and religious.. His dad worked as a postal employee, while his mom was frequently being fired for being outspoken. His mom would self-medicate and abuse prescription drugs.

“Mom was bipolar and suffered from depression. She knew more than the doctors, so she’d just do anything she wanted with whatever pills she had, but we didn’t understand it as little kids, we just knew mom was kind of weird,” Orchard said.

He came to Muncie, Ind., in 1972 after receiving a full-tuition scholarship from Ball State University to play football as a defensive cornerback. Football player and coach Ball State football player Paul Orchard poses with his coach in the 1970s.

“I wasn’t good enough to play (football) on the big stage, but at Ball State I felt like ‘Okay this is where I could play a lot.’ I really liked Ball State’s campus compared to the other schools I went to,” Orchard said. “It (football) was a job.”

He first majored in criminal justice and corrections because he “wanted to work with the feds someday.” He also minored in history, unintentionally.

“I had a minor in history just because it was easy. If I needed to fill a time slot I would just take a history class. I didn’t even know I was graduating with a minor in history until I saw it on my diploma,” Orchard said. “History just comes so easy to me that it was like I was doing easy A classes. It didn’t matter if it was world history or U.S. history, I just liked it.”

After graduating, from BSU in 1976, he went on to be a Metropark Ranger in Cleveland. His favorite position there was being undercover for sex crimes. He said that “pervert things” went on in the park, off the roadways and trails, and in the public restrooms.

“We were out there just to keep a lid on things because it was pretty kinky weird stuff. There was a wide variety of inappropriate sexual behavior going on because of the cover of the park system,” Orchard said.

Patrolmen work on different shifts. They could work 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 4 p.m. to midnight, or midnight to 8 a.m. Orchard was always put on the night shift because he was young and single.

“(Night shift) was more dangerous because we had one-man cars. You’d be out on traffic stops in the middle of the pitch black (night) on these reservations making a stop all by yourself. Here you are stopping a van full of people all by yourself, with a .38 with six bullets in it. If people wanted to take you out, they’d take you out,” Orchard said. “You were as careful as you could be because the time for back-up was extremely long, so you didn’t want to get into a situation where you were over your head. You tried to call stuff in so that it would give yourself extra time to plan ahead.”

Orchard has many memories from the two years he worked as a patrolman. One memory that stands out the most to him is when he found a “dead guy in the middle of the night.”

“It looked like a suicide, I’m almost positive it was, but you don’t know. It was like two o’clock in the morning and I find this guy who had blown his brains out. Did he really or did somebody else shoot him and make it look like a suicide?” Orchard said. “So you’re sitting there in the middle of nowhere, all by yourself, standing next to a dead body and you don’t know if he was murdered or if it was a suicide. So you’re sitting there waiting for back-up to come and you know that the chief, the detectives, and the coroner are coming.”

He resigned from the force due to disagreements with administration.

“I got written up for doing stupid stuff,” Orchard said. “I was 22 with a gun and a badge --that’s a bad combination-- and a brand new Camaro. I used to, every once in a while, put the lights and sirens on just to get to Dunkin’ Donuts.”

After he resigned from the force in 1978, he went to work for the father of his first wife, Robin, on a 2,000-acre farm for eight years.

“We took care of about 65 head of horses, calves, hogs. A lot of times, I would say you worked 12-hour workdays, eight to eight, sometimes later than that,” Orchard said.

As a way to become more independent from the the farm, he went back to BSU and served as a graduate assistant coach for the university’s football team, coaching the wide receivers. In 1988, Orchard came to Delta High School to teach. He has taught a variety of classes ranging from physical education and health, to world history, U.S. history, and sociology.

Orchard’s life at Delta consists of him often being at work until midnight and sometimes 1 a.m. He works more than 70 hours a week, which “is the amount of hours of two jobs,” Orchard said. Teacher grades at his desk Paul Orchard spends many late nights in his classroom grading and preparing plans.

Teaching has changed over the years, according to Orchard, by the state trying to regulate everything. When he first started he said that you could run your classroom they way you wanted without the state telling you what you have to teach. He also said that there have been more requirements for teachers.

“I think the state has taking the fun out of a lot of it, which is the exact opposite of what it should be. Education should be enjoyable, there’s so much testing now, it’s ridiculous. They’re going to have to adjust that sometime,” Orchard said. “What you’re getting in education now is big businesses want certain requirements. Well that wasn’t the job of public education, that’s not the mission of public education. We’re not supposed to supply you with someone that is totally ready to go to work for you. We’re giving a broad-based education, then you train the person for the job. They want us to train people nowadays. High schools can’t do that, we can’t get somebody job ready. That’s ridiculous. Pay for your own training, you’re making billions of dollars.”

These changes not only affected his life but the life of his family too. His family is his everything and he does what he does so that they can thrive. Orchard is married to his second wife, Jennifer, who is a speech pathologist at Albany and Eaton elementary schools. He has two daughters, Amory, 2012 Delta graduate, and Maren, 2014 Delta graduate, and a son, Cade, senior.

Orchard said that parents try to be role models and inspire their kids to do whatever they set their minds to and to put confidence in their minds at a young age.

“It’s (parenting) kind of like you have to instill that confidence in kids. Otherwise they don’t go for it, you know, they don’t try to grab the rein,” Orchard said.

His closest friend was his brother, Nathan. As an adult, Nathan was diagnosed with lung cancer. Orchard watched as his brother went downhill after the initial diagnosis. Then he made a comeback where everyone thought he was cancer free. However, it returned and quickly spread to his brain. After seven years of battling he died.

“I used to go backpacking with him a couple times a year. We were really close. Plus the fact that he married my wife’s sister, so it was brothers married to sisters. We used to do a lot of stuff together. You really miss somebody that was one of my closest friends,” Orchard said.

Although time has passed Orchard still continues to move forward and remembers the skills he learned from his other jobs, such as how to do wiring and carpentry, how to pour cement, how to put up pole barns, and how to paint houses.

“Anything that I could do was around a person’s house. I can do a little bit of everything. Jack of all trades, master of none,” Orchard said.

At the end of his 31 years of teaching, Orchard is set to retire after next school year. His wife plans to retire early so they can do more things together. He looks forward to doing things that he hasn’t had the time to do: going back into the wilderness, backpacking, and working on his house before he can’t.

“I’ll be able to spend more time with friends and family. I’m looking forward to getting back into some of those hobbies and interests that I used to do that I don’t do anymore, I just don’t have the time (to do them now).”