Geoff Proctor: More Than Meets the Eye

John Orzechowski, Head Writer

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Geoff Proctor is one of several teachers here in Helena High School’s English Department. He teaches AP Literature, Literature 110, and Creative writing, the first two exclusive to seniors and the last open to all grades. He’s taught English for 30 years, all over the globe. Prior to HHS, he taught at a junior high in Bozeman and at the University of Montana in Missoula; he’s also taught out of state at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and abroad at the American Language Institute in Lisbon, Portugal.

He spent his youth in the New England area, mainly the states of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. He had a grand idea of coming out west to a big university to get his Masters Degree in English and Creative Writing, and he ended up in Missoula at UM. He met his wife, who hails from the Missoula area, and settled down in Montana instead of returning to New England. They have two kids, both past high school. His younger son, Andriy [HHS‘16], plays D3 Soccer at Middlebury college in Vermont and his older son, Atticus [HHS ‘14], is a geologist with a passion for year-round skiing.

He believes that the profession of teaching can turn into such a consuming job that it’s important to have outside interests. For Proctor, that interest is cycling.

In the 1990s, he raced in three World Championships in Europe. Now, he’s the performance and program director for the US National Cyclocross team. Cyclocross is basically a biathlon on a bike: the racers transition between on-road and off-road biking, and when the going gets too steep, they have to pick up their bikes and carry them on their shoulders. Since 2002, he’s coached in 15 World Championships, and these events have taken him to places like Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and southern Italy. He says that riding through Monopoli, Italy, was like riding through the old west, in reference to the numerous spaghetti westerns that Clint Eastwood shot there.

He started the Helena Dynamos bike club in 2000, and he credits it with bringing serious attention to Helena area cycling. When he retires from teaching, he plans to dedicate his time fully to cycling.

But all of this doesn’t get in the way of what he does right now. His passion still holds, even with the borderline celebrity status attached to his name.

When asked what it is he enjoys about English, he says he loves “good literature, and helping students cultivate the powers of discernment.”

He has faith in people, from the elite athletes he trains to the students who sit in his class every day. He’s written a book called Behind the Stare (find it on Amazon). It’s centered around cycling, and he says that the title is based on “what I believe to be the secret of athletic excellence, and that lies behind the stare.”

Basically, there’s something mental that pushes the elite athletes to greatness. He applied it to athletics, but it could probably be applied in just about any other profession.

Closing our interview, he offered up a piece of advice to the students, and really anyone: “Do something that you have the drive to do well.”

He teaches because he has a drive to help kids learn literature and unlock deeper meaning. He coaches all levels of cycling because he has the drive to help these athletes be the best they can be.

So what do you have the drive to do well?