The Saratoga Sun -

The world needs more Mr. Sotos


January 26, 2022

In another life, much younger, I was a kindergarten English teacher in Taichung, Taiwan. It was an early job when I first arrived fresh from Hawaii. It laid the ground for me teaching English at hospitals and becoming a private teacher. It was an amazingly fun era for me; as I look back. 

Especially teaching kids.

After living in Hawaii for two years, I came to island with only an English degree from the University of Maryland. Good luck was with me and within three months I found myself working at the most prestigious kindergarten school in this city of 3 million. It was called Big Apple and had ages from 16 months to six year-olds. Hundreds of students attended this school. 

The school was incredibly progressive in so many ways and really nice. The playground I have never seen rivaled. They actually had a main playground on the ground floor and another on the roof of the third floor. 

I taught every level that came to the school and to be truthful, when kids are under two, games are about all you are teaching. Once a week, I taught my classes out on the rooftop playground. It was enjoyable, and I learned games like “Duck, duck, goose” could be incorporated into teaching English. I had one sport that had me say to the kids “Can you do this?” and I would come up with some activity like standing on one leg and the kids would shout back “Yes I can.” 

Our school liked what I was doing with these activities they asked myself and two other teachers to pull together a manual for new teachers and the Chinese teachers. It was produced in English and Chinese and it was called “Look who’s Teaching! Tricks to get ‘em Talking.”

I have said every man should be a kindergarten teacher if they are going to have kids. It certainly taught me tons, including infinite patience. 

Recently I wrote an article that was a labor love. Usually when I write something along this lines, I have a couple weeks thanks to my kind editor, Josh Wood. However this time, I felt it had to get out that week while it was still in people’s minds.

If it sounds cliché, so be it, but it was an honor to write about Dario Soto retiring from coaching basketball. He is still the P.E. coach at Medicine Bow and Elk Mountain so he is still in students lives. The kids are at these schools are still benefitting being in his presence. This is not to take away from any Wyoming P.E. teaching elementary school.

The first time I met Mr. Soto, it was to cover an annual event he did every year with the elementary schools up north in Carbon County School District No 2, called Mr. Soto’s Field Day.

Mr. Soto was 83 at the time. 

I had come Medicine Bow Elementary and was not prepared to see the energy of a man participating in the games he was teaching the way he did. I remember seeing him on a balance beam a few feet in the air explaining what he wanted the kids to do and saying to myself “I want to be like him when I am 83.”

I have been fortunate to attend a few more of these annual events although Covid-19 canceled it one year. I know Mr. Soto was sad when that happened.

Mr. Soto has always been generous with his time with me and as I learned more about him, he became someone I admired.

Honestly, when you see him work with the kids and caring that he wears on his sleeve, it is almost impossible not admire him.

I had an interview earlier this year, where he said this might be his last year of coaching basketball. I told him, I hoped to see a game he coached before he did call it quits.

When I got the call that Mr. Soto had decided earlier in the day, Tuesday night (January 11) would be his last game, I had just gotten home from the Sun and was getting ready for the Hanna Town Council that was meeting in an hour or so. I ran to HEM and I got to watch the first game, but Mr. Soto wasn’t really coaching. There is an A and B game and he was doing the older kids that night.  

Principal Steve Priest gave recognition to Mr. Soto between the two games and I decided to ask HEM’s athletic director Russ Wiggam for some words. As he spoke into the recorder, I saw him choke up a little.

Then Russ suggested I talk to Zack Scott, the assistant basketball coach for the boys and a player when one of the years Mr. Soto took Medicine Bow to the State Championship. Zack started telling me about this man I already admired and I knew I had to do a story on Mr. Soto’s coaching career as seen through the eyes of the people who knew him.

The man coached three generations, and there were a lot of people to talk to. I know I didn’t get to them all.

The more I learned, the more I realized, Mr. Soto was the type of person who makes this state, for that matter, this country; great!

My journey in learning about him was only a week. There were interviews from people who spoke so highly of Mr. Soto; that sometimes I would get misty-eyed.

The common statement, “It is always about the kids.”

This man spent 60 years building and shaping kids to become adults that all I spoke to, said he was a man who reeked of class, character and integrity.

My few years teaching kids made me realize how special he is to have devoted 60 years of his life to making our communities better by him teaching sportsmanship and kindness.

While I was writing the story, I found myself wanting to tell the readers that Mr. Soto impressed me from day one. I wanted to saying teaching kids isn’t easy and doing it with physical activity is even harder, because kids are kids.

I guess I knew deep down, I would have a column that gave me the opportunity to say how much I respected this person. As I began to hear the cracking voices, see the eyes tear up when men and women recounted their stories, I realized how lucky I was to have been blessed to get to write this story.

I have to say God, fate or whatever a person believes, was on my side about getting to see him coach his last game.

I had to leave at halftime and go to the town council. When I got there, there was not enough council members for a quorum (a little later one was established) so I shot back to the game.

I saw the magic of Mr. Soto’s coaching. I am so happy I saw him and the kids in action. It was truly inspiring. 

Just like the man himself.

I heard many times, while talking to different people, and it rings true.

“The world needs more Mr. Sotos.”


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