BY ELLA BROCKWAY
RBR Buccaneer Editor In Chief
Cassandra Dorn’s career has taken her around the world. What began in a classroom at Red Bank Regional led her to a college campus in North Carolina; to a ranch on the Northern California coast where she got her first taste of teaching; to a middle school in northern Virginia where she put that love of teaching into action; even to the mountains of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, where she led students on a one month service-adventure trip.
Where has life taken Cassandra Dorn? Right back to where it all began.
“I think every senior says, ‘I’m out of here and I am never coming back to this place,’” says Dorn, who is currently an English teacher at RBR. “I had no plan to end up here or teach here, but it’s amazing how you end up.”
Dorn is a 1986 graduate of Red Bank Regional. As a student at RBR, she served as an editor of The Log, the school yearbook, and was motivated by a lack of school spirit to take on a unique position.
“I was the mascot,” she says. “I was really bummed that no one came to the football games and cheered, so I said, ‘I’m going to be the Buccaneer’ and I did. I got to go to the games, and it was fun, and I’m convinced that’s what got me into college.”
Dorn attended Duke University after high school and graduated in 1990 with a degree in English Literature. After college, she worked in public relations until she realized that the corporate lifestyle wasn’t for her and applied for a teaching internship at a communal ranch in northern California.
“It pushed my comfort level and I realized how safe I’d been playing it for so long,” says Dorn. “It changed my whole life because I realized it was the anti-Duke. No one cared what you looked like; no one cared how smart you were. It was more about the person you were, the energy you put into things, and how honest you were with people.”
Dorn describes the experience as the “opposite of Monmouth County,” complete with all-vegetarian meals, no indoor plumbing, limited showers, and a communal style of living. The internship inspired her to spend the next eight years in the outdoor education field, leading trips and service-adventure programs for teens in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
In 1998, after five years as an afterschool program coordinator at a middle school in Alexandria, Virginia, Dorn decided to return to her hometown of Little Silver, inspired to teach after her positive experiences with the profession and outdoor education. She began at RBR as a substitute and eventually became a full-time English teacher. Dorn attained her Master’s degree in Secondary Education from Rutgers University in 2005. She has also taken additional courses at Drew University and Monmouth University.
Dorn’s eighteen years as a teacher at RBR have come with a host of positions and honors. She was named the Teacher of the Year in the 2009-10 school year and has served as the faculty advisor of the Class of 2004 as well as the head of the yearbook, the newspaper, and the National Honor Society. She currently teaches the International Baccalaureate English course for the Class of 2018 and an English 4 CP class and serves as the advisor to the Key Club.
“The good thing about teaching is that you have to reinvent yourself all the time,” says Dorn. “You can create a different day every day and every year. You never cease to be amazed and surprised by the students in a good way.”
Community service is an integral part of Dorn’s life. Since 2010, she has been in charge of RBR’s annual food drive, an event that she says was inspired by her father’s involvement with the Salvation Army, which has collected more than 25,000 food items in six years for Lunch Break and the Red Bank Salvation Army. Dorn also runs a gift drive for Linkages, a transitional housing program for homeless and at-risk families, and encourages student and staff to “adopt” and purchase gifts for a child.
“That’s our duty, our responsibility in my opinion, to take care of those who have less than we do,” says Dorn. “It’s important to show others that it doesn’t take much. You don’t have to go feed everybody in the county. You can go feed ten people. You can give a warm coat to one person, and that’s going to make a difference to that one person.”
Cassandra Dorn embodies what it means to be a Red Bank Regional Buccaneer. In her four years as a student and 18 years as a teacher, she has seen it all in these halls. When asked what it is that draws her back year after year to the RBR community, she does not hesitate.
“It’s the people—both generations of my time here,” she says. “It was my friends and teachers then who made a difference to me, and now it’s my friends who are teachers as well as the kids. I will get emails from students who I had ten years ago. And that’s what binds me to this place: the fact that the chain can continue. That I’m getting Christmas letters from my former teachers and I’m getting emails from my former students. RBR is woven into my life.”