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You Must Remember This: Ted Newland

By NANCY GARDNER

Ted Newland

Courtesy of Nancy Gardner

Of all the teachers I ever had, probably the biggest influence was Ted Newland. A lot of people know him as the water polo coach at UCI or the swim and water polo coach at Harbor High. They may have forgotten that during the Harbor High years he was also a classroom teacher, history and economics being his subjects.

This is not to minimize his success in the athletic field. He introduced water polo at Harbor High. This was quite a challenge because the only pool at the time was about four feet deep, and in water polo it’s against the rules to touch the bottom. Since most of the team members were at least 5’10”, this made a hard sport even more difficult, but despite this apparent handicap, Newland turned out winning teams from the beginning, with a six-four record his first year and third place in Sunset League. He continued his success at UCI when he took over from Al Irwin, and so devoted was he to the water polo program that when it was being phased out for economic reasons he put up his own money to keep it going. He was also heavily involved in weight training for other athletes at the university. I’m sure they all got a lot stronger, and not just because he was one of the original no pain, no gain guys. He also worked out alongside the athletes. Nothing like some old dude kicking your butt to get you motivated.

As for the classroom, I met him as a junior in his history class. From the first day, it was clear he wasn’t cut from the same cloth as our other teachers, and we weren’t sure how to react to this different personality. It wasn’t just that he seemed to have more energy. It was the way he approached things. If he felt we weren’t attentive, he might drop a book on the floor with a loud bang. If he wanted to make a point, he might stand on his chair. He was adept at keeping the focus on him. Several days into the term, he alluded to some historical figure as an egotist. “Can anybody define egotist?” he asked.

The normal reluctance to respond was heightened because of our confusion about him, and then I said, and I don’t think I even thought about it, “You?” There was an uneasy silence as everyone waited to see how this unusual teacher would react to what I had said. He looked at me and gave a slight grin and nod like I had passed a test I didn’t even know I was taking. That was how I came to be part of Team Newland. I became the scorekeeper for the water polo team, even accompanying them to away games. I was dating his star swimmer and water polo player, Jim Corfman, and the three of us would go surfing, getting up at 5 a.m. to hit Tressels. Despite that familiarity, he remained Mr. Newland through high school. After graduation, and as the friendship blossomed, he became Ted, and he was the best man when Jim and I married. We lost touch, however, when Jim got him in the divorce.

Despite the fact that we became friends, it was in the classroom where he had the biggest impact. Not only were his methods a little unorthodox, so was his message. He was the first teacher I ever had who actually challenged the status quo. He pushed us to question many of the things that up to that point we accepted as a matter of course. He did what teachers are supposed to do – not just impart facts but open our eyes to new possibilities – and for that I am forever grateful, as are others, many of whom still keep in touch. I would if I hadn’t lost him in the settlement.

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Nancy Gardner, former Mayor of Newport Beach, long-time resident and daughter of Judge Robert Gardner, is a regular contributor to StuNewsNewport.