Teacher Brings Passion for Skateboards Into Classroom


(Sunday, January 21, 2007 7:07 AM EST

Stamp and baseball card collections may be impressive, but Swanson Middle School teacher Dan Reilly's vintage skateboard collection is something to behold.

With 60 boards, spanning from the 1950s through the 1970s, most of which are on display in his basement, it's a skater's nirvana.

Reilly started skating in 1975 on a homemade board, built with a piece of scrap wood and a chopped roller skate. He eventually got a better board, but, with parents who had to put four children through college, fancy and expensive boards were out of the question.

“We were frugal,” he said. “We only got presents at Christmas.”

When his own son started skating eight years ago, Reilly remembered his childhood desire for boards in skateboard magazines, and bought a vintage skateboard on eBay a few years later.

“I like collecting them, because I feel as though I'm a kid again,” he said. “It's like Christmas every time I go to the basement.”

Most of the boards in Reilly's collection cost about $80, but in recent years, prices for vintage boards have increased to around $250. Reilly, however, doesn't like thinking about his collection in terms of its monetary value.

“I don't look at it in terms of money,” he said. “I have an appreciation for it. It's like saying what your child is worth.”

For the past four years, Swanson Middle School students have had the opportunity to see parts of Reilly's collection and learn about skateboarding by attending his “History of Skateboarding” presentation.

The offering has become more and more popular over the years, and Reilly is happy to share his passion with those in school.

“Swanson students are the nicest kids I've ever met in my 14 years of teaching, and I appreciate them more than I can say,” he said. “Four years ago, only half a classroom of kids showed up. This year, we had to move it to the school's flex space, and even that was crowded. Maybe next year we'll need an auditorium!”

The presentation includes a video timeline that shows the evolution of skating equipment, and Reilly brings in 30 to 35 boards from home for students to handle.

Of his 60 skateboards, Reilly lets people use 10 of them. He even has a longboard (an extra-long skateboard) that he lends out to students - and there's a waiting list to use it.

Although Reilly only skates occasionally these days, it serves as a great stress relief.

“It's fun! It's like surfing down a street,” he said. “And since the waves in Arlington aren't very good, I like taking a longboard down a wide, winding hill.”

Swanson Middle School teacher Dan Reilly collects vintage skateboards, and shares their history with students.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)


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