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Teaching, training give Sparks resident balance
by Dan Eckles
Apr 17, 2013 | 2824 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Mike de la Torre is both a teacher and an athletic trainer at Sparks High School where his days a full of educating in classrooms and protecting student-athletes on the fields and courts of the school.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Mike de la Torre is both a teacher and an athletic trainer at Sparks High School where his days a full of educating in classrooms and protecting student-athletes on the fields and courts of the school.
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Mike de la Torre moved to Carson City from southern California when he was 9. He graduated from Carson High and lived in the Capital City for a few more years, but after living in the Rail City for the past 24 years, it’s definitely safe to say Sparks is home.

In fact, homes in Sparks have been his a few times.

“When I moved up from Carson, my parents had a condo on Lincoln Way,” de la Torre said. “That’s where I lived before I got married and bought a house. My wife and I bought that first house in Sparks. Then we sold it and bought another. Before buying the last one, we thought about southwest Reno, but what you got for what you paid, that was way out of the question. So we just moved a third of a mile up the street ... I like the small-town feel of Sparks and it’s just 15 minutes from my house in the Vistas to Sparks High.”

The University of Nevada graduate is a teacher and athletic trainer at Sparks High School. He says wearing both hats is a big plus.

“I do feel like it gives me balance,” de la Torre said. “In the classroom, as a teacher, is one thing. After school, out on the fields, it’s a totally different thing. Every day is different.”

The Sparks resident got his start in the local schools as an athletic trainer at Sparks High 15 years ago. Two years later, de la Torre got a teaching position and he’s been full-time at SHS ever since. He’s got a varied teaching load, leading classrooms for biology, alternative education and special education.

Teaching is a passion of his and he’s seen it change in his decade-plus of working with local students.

“The best part of it is working with the kids, imparting knowledge, helping them learn and seeing them graduate, then come back to raise families of their own.

“There have been a lot of changes. There seems to be a lot more accountability put on teachers. They want us to get more subject matter into the same amount of time. That’s difficult to do.”

De la Torre was happy to get his teaching job. He had been working at UPS to make ends meet financially and was able to give that up once he got a teaching position. He’d also been holding out for something to open at Sparks High.

“I think being the trainer helped me catch on at Sparks,” he said. “I wanted to teach at the same place I was a trainer. I didn’t want to be a teacher at Reed and be the trainer at Sparks. I wanted to be at the same school. That’s much less stressful. You can see the kids in the classroom and in the halls, just have much better contact with them.”

While teaching is the day job that helps pay the bills, the Railroaders’ athletic training position is certainly a passion for de la Torre as well.

“The contact with the kids is fun,” he said. “Seeing them go from practice to the games, the excitement of the games, being able to help an injured kid go from no practice to being ready to play on Friday night and help them get healthy, all of that stuff is great.

“We have had some great memories here at Sparks, our great football years in 2006 and 2007, our state basketball title in 2010 with Coach Dick Lee, and then the last couple of years in soccer, have all been great times.”

De la Torre got a chance to take a European Vacation during the holiday break a few months ago. The trip, which he took with his wife Gretchen and their two daughters, Mia, 11, and Emma, 8, was better than he could have ever expected. He added that taking those trips with the family builds life-long memories.

“It was amazing, the first time I’d ever been out of the country,” de la Torre said. “We all had a great time. So often we just stay in California or Arizona. That trip gave us a sense of different cultures and how others lived. It really opened my daughters eyes to the world, that there are other places than Sparks, Nevada. Now, in two years, we’d like to go to Greece and Italy.”

De la Torre is 45. When he’s not manning his classroom or training table at Sparks High, he likes to ski, ride bikes and lift weights.
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