By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

When outgoing McNary drama director Dallas Myers asked the student thespian board to nominate someone for the Ken Collins Award, there was only one name they could come up with, whether he liked it or not.

“We decided there was no one more deserving and less willing to accept this award than Mr. Myers,” McNary senior Michael Dugan said during the Golden Onions on Friday, June 2. “Coming into this department, I never knew how much I would need theater in my life and how I would need someone like Mr. Myers to not take it easy on me and to really know what I needed at that point. He just knows what people need in their lives and it’s an amazing talent, makes the department what it is today.”

To senior Annie Purkey, Myers was like a father.

“One reason why this award was so easy for all of us is not only because of how much you care about this department but how much you care about each of us as individuals,” an emotional Purkey said. “You are the person that was there to support me when my dad didn’t and you have offered me all the advice that I needed to get through my high school years and I couldn’t have made it without you. Thank you.”

Myers, who’s taking a position at Auburn High School in Washington, said he didn’t want to accept the award because he didn’t want to admit he was leaving.

“When I picked up this plaque today, (I thought) it doesn’t look real,” Myers said. “It’s been an honor to be here for seven years. I don’t have words for my experience this year, just the fact that my own kids, this is like their second home so that I’ll be able to leave my name on something is really neat. I don’t regret anything that I’ve done here or any shows that I’ve done here or any letters of hate or any letters of praise that I’ve received. I don’t regret any of it. This experience at McNary and this experience with you guys this year will make lots of things pale in comparison. Thank you.”

The students weren’t done honoring Myers. After senior Heidi Hays presented him with a book full of photos from all of the shows over the last seven years, a video played that began with “Dallas Myers is the teacher that we will remember for the rest of our lives, and we just want to say THANK YOU,” followed by testimony from more than 30 current and former students on what Myers taught them.

“There are times as a teacher where you doubt yourself or you doubt what you’re doing,” Myers said after watching the video. “You go through the most gut-wrenching self doubt. You guys have seen it in me. This just pays for it. I’ll take this day with me for the rest of my life and I’ll take all of you with me, too, your passion and your memories and your smiles. I don’t have words. I had a feeling that this night was going to be really hard for me and I was going to stumble my way through it. There’s no better way to leave.”

Myers compared the evening to a scene in his favorite movie, Dead Poets Society, when students stand on their desk, declaring “Oh Captain, My Captain” to support their fired teacher.

“As a teacher you dream of that moment, not of getting fired, but of that experience,” Myers said. “Thank you for this. I will lock this memory in for the rest of my existence.”