Petaluma educator honored for work with fish, students

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On most days, Dan Hubacker goes fishing for steelhead trout. And he gets paid to do it.

Hubacker runs the United Anglers of Casa Grande program at Casa Grande High School, and said it’s his dream job. Besides operating a complex fish hatchery on campus and spending time looking for fish on Adobe Creek, Hubacker teaches 100 students from both Casa Grande and Petaluma High Schools about conservation and environmental stewardship.

“Teaching is the most rewarding job,” said Hubacker, 36. “I get to come to school every day and talk about animals. It doesn’t get any better than that. It’s what I’m passionate about.”

For his work inspiring students, Hubacker was awarded the Excellence in Education award at the 2019 Petaluma Community Awards of Excellence April 18.

The award-winning United Anglers program was started in 1982 by Casa Grande teacher Tom Furrer to help restore Adobe Creek that was nearly dead because of city water diversions. Hubacker, a Casa Grande graduate, signed up for the program after a knee injury ended his baseball career.

“After I couldn’t play baseball someone told me about the fish hatchery, and I said ‘There’s a fish hatchery here?’” Hubacker said. “I found a new love.”

After graduation, he stayed in Sonoma County and continued to work at the hatchery. He earned a teaching credential from Sonoma State University in 2010 and the next year was hired at Casa Grande to take of the United Anglers program when Furrer retired.

“I had some big shoes to fill,” he said. “But I’ve invested so much of my life into the program that it continues on.”

The program is taught during the school day as a science class, and there is opportunities for students to participate after school, working at the 32,000-gallon hatchery and on creek restoration projects. The students also learn soft skills like fundraising — the hatchery is supported by donations.

The program has caught the attention of educators in other states and as far away as Japan, where it was featured in a school text book.

Since taking over the program, Hubacker has expanded its reach, according to the award nomination form.

“Interest in the program has exploded in recent years under Dan’s passionate leadership from around 30 students to more than 100, and now includes participants from Petaluma High School as well as Casa Grande,” the form reads. “Dan’s energy and passion for teaching his students and helping them succeed in caring for the local environment is unmatched. He literally jumps with excitement when talking about the program and the students’ accomplishments to visitors and community members.”

While the program takes up most of his time, Hubacker still finds time to play with his two sons, one 5-years-old and one born just three weeks ago. He also likes to spend time outdoors gardening, hunting and camping, and of course, fishing.

“I’ve spent summers in Alaska trying to understand the outdoors. I appreciate our environment,” he said. “I want to inspire kids the same way I was inspired.”

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)

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