Teacher Feature: Government Guy Ouren


Derek Ouren is the government teacher here at North who almost everyone will have the privilege of having. Ouren has been teaching at North for 15 years, but since he only teaches seniors, most underclassmen have no idea who he is.
Ouren grew up right here in Fargo, on the “mean streets of Bohnet Boulevard.” He graduated from North in 2003, and was a three sport athlete. “My best friends were the dorks, the smart kids, but I kind of hung out more with the jocks cuz I played three sports,” Ouren said. He played football, basketball, and baseball. Ouren coached basketball here at North for a few years, but now he coaches at Fargo; “I’m good friends with the South coach and he asked me to come over when I was done coaching girls basketball at North,” Ouren said.
Ouren went to Saint Cloud State University for one year, but then transferred to NDSU for his last three years. He graduated from NDSU in 2007. “I really liked it, I liked getting out of my parents’ house, I liked the atmosphere,” he said. Ouren also added that he got his Masters from the all-girls school Saint Kate’s, “So I’m very diversified.”
Ouren came to teaching in a heartfelt way. When he was a student, he always hated science but had a biology teacher that made the class enjoyable for him. “If I can enjoy doing something I don’t like and it’s because of him […] that kinda like popped into my head like oh, well, you don’t have to have everybody like what you’re doing,” Ouren said. That’s what Ouren wanted for other kids too, to be a teacher who makes class enjoyable for his students.
Now that Dick Fisher, the beloved psychology teacher, is retiring, Ouren will be the second-most tenured social studies teacher behind Colin Kloster. “He’s at his lake cabin over there, I like to call it,” Ouren said about Kloster. Regardless, he’ll be the oldest in the current social studies office. “I feel old. I can see the gray hairs coming in and it’s making me nervous.”
About to add to Ouren’s gray hairs is his role serving as Prom advisor, with his wife Amy. A. Ouren advised Prom in the past, and was asked to step in again after no one else wanted the position. Ouren told us about this in class: he was saying his wife told him he would help, and he said he would add his name to the contract as well and get a share of the salary. He said he’s excited to prom advise, though. “I’m ready to diversify and get some masculine takes, bring some male perspective into prom,” Ouren said. He then added, “But more importantly, I’m excited to take orders more from my wife.”
Although Ouren isn’t known by most underclassmen, he says the diversity of the student body brings him is what makes him like teaching. “When you coach, you only really get a certain group of kids,” Ouren said. “When you teach, you actually get to work with a whole bunch of different types of kids.” He likes being exposed to so many students. On the flip side, Ouren doesn’t like doing things that don’t affect a kid’s learning. An example he gave of this was meetings and professional development. “I don’t see a connection to how this helps kids learn,” Ouren said, “I went into teaching because I actually want to teach and work with you guys. I didn’t go into teaching so I could go downtown and work on my rubrics.”
A former student of Ouren’s advised me to ask him about why confetti cake is his favorite. I braced myself for a funny story, but I was definitely surprised at his answer. “Lots of different colors that help form this amazing taste,” Ouren said about the confetti cake. “I know it’s food coloring […] but I believe that all the different colors of a funfetti cake really form this perfect taste.” He shared that he and his wife had confetti cake at his wedding, which I think is really heartwarming. “One of my demands in the wedding,” he said.
Next, I thought Ouren could give some advice to the upcoming seniors. “Come with an open mind. Have a positive attitude. And be confident in what you believe in,” he said. He thinks students come in with worries that he or other students would change their beliefs and morals, which just isn’t true. To his seniors, he said, “Get a job and fill all these jobs that need filled.”
When I asked what he thought you should take away from the article, Ouren said, “that Ouren and government are cool and fun.” I thought that the interview was going to be a wrap there, but Ouren continued. “I feel bad sometimes teaching only seniors,” He said, “There are literally some seniors that come in their second semester. They’ve been here three and a half years, I have no idea who they are.” He doesn’t like this because not only does he not know who we are, but no one knows who he is. Although he likes teaching seniors, Ouren doesn’t like that students come in with a preconception of what they’ve heard of him. If you’re a student who hasn’t taken government yet, it’s a great idea to get to know Mr. Ouren so you can enjoy the class a little bit more!