Glenn McGinnis – Class of 1996
Mathematics teacher, Dorman High School, Spartanburg, SC

My job can be described as stressful but awesome. I am a high school math teacher. I get to help people every day try to grasp and master mathematics.

When I first entered education as a high school math teacher at East Burke High School, I would arrive at work early and leave late, even staying until the gates were locked. Now that I have a family, I still try to get to work early to get my work done, but I leave at a more normal time. Over the years I have moved six times and have worked at four high schools. I currently work at Dorman High School in Spartanburg, SC, and I hope to remain here until retirement. Doing so would certainly be fitting, since Dorman’s mascot is also the Cavaliers.

I enjoy helping people. There is no greater feeling than seeing a student who was struggling with something get that “a-Ha” moment where the concept clicks. When in college, I was a tutor helping students with organic chemistry. Upon leaving college I was torn between being a teacher and helping people and being a chemist and working in a lab. I decided to follow my heart, which I have always done, and pursue teaching.

Unfortunately, the challenges with this profession are numerous and increasing. As our society changes, our requirements for education also change. Instead of simply coming in and teaching content and helping students, educators now wear many hats. These numerous hats still help students but in different contexts. I honestly sometimes wish I could just wear my teaching hat and teach math. However, students need us to help them and advocate for them, especially as they are growing and learning to advocate for themselves. The rewards of this profession are numerous though not necessarily monetary. I recently saw a kid that I taught three years ago. The student came up to me and spoke to me as if we were still in my class. Encounters like these warm my heart. I also am so pleased to know that the student is still in school and continuing to learn. The little impacts that educators make on students help them become who they are; if we can positively impact students, we can make the world a better place.

While in college, I had several jobs. I have worked as a grocery store clerk, a maintenance worker in a furniture factory, and a bench chemist. I was working third shift in a hosiery mill when I received a call from Robert Patton to discuss the possibility of my teaching math. I learned a great deal from each experience, including humility and the importance of every job. I also try to treat everyone with respect because we all work hard and deserve it. Everyone is intelligent in his or her own profession and has skill sets that I do not know. We can learn a lot from each other if we open our ears and hearts. We simply have to be willing to learn.

These various jobs have provided me with experiences that have allowed me to connect with people and have even provided me with information that I can use in the classroom. I often use situations from my previous jobs as examples in my math lessons. I can also easily answer the dreaded question, “When am I going to ever use this?”

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Western Carolina University. I also received a minor in mathematics, so while I was teaching those first few years, I attended Appalachian State University to receive my teaching credentials in middle school and secondary mathematics. I then attained my Masters in secondary math education from ASU. Over my years of teaching math, I have been certified to instruct people on the use of Texas Instruments calculators and have also obtained certificates for instructing International Baccalaureates Mathematics at the SL {standard level) and HL (higher level). I am also certified to teach AP Calculus. In addition, I have received the Read 2 Succeed certification and Gifted certification on my teaching license. I have even taught statistics at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. I am also certified to teach chemistry and physics and have taught some engineering classes. I am certified to instruct STEM 101 classes and the Project Lead the Way initiative. It is interesting and helpful to have these different paths to explore, but math is where my focus has always been. To summarize, if it is math, I can help you.

Many teachers who inspired me along my educational course, including everyone from my high school math teachers who helped me learn material to English and history teachers who tried to help me since those subjects were not my forte. It would be impossible to list all of them -- and I hate leaving people out -- but there are three people who helped/inspired me the most.

The first would be my father. He always encouraged me to learn anything and everything, whether it was how to change the oil in my car or how to tell a joke. He has always encouraged me and pushed me, and I will always be grateful. The second would be Dr. Gary Poole, my advisor in college. I only had one class with him, but his door was always open, and he would always listen to me or assist me. In class he taught me the importance of the words I decide to say. In class I would say, “Dr. Poole, can I ask you a question?” His reply, “Yes, and you did.” He would then walk away leaving me there contemplating the conversation. I eventually started playing his game back on him and caught him a few times.

The third person is Robert Patton, my principal at East Burke Middle School. While I attended there, I don’t know that we really spoke or even had any kind of conversation. If we did, it was not something that I recall. However, after I finished college, he called me and asked me to come in for a teaching interview. I told him I had decided not to be a teacher at that point. I had become quite discouraged about the teaching market. But Mr. Patton convinced me to come in and just talk. During our conversation, he spoke to me about my time in middle school, and I was in shock. I thought he could not possibly remember me. After some soul searching, I left his office with aspirations of being a teacher again. He helped me realize what was in my heart. I felt bad for not accepting the position that he offered, but instead I went to the math department at East Burke High. I truly appreciate his push to help get me back on the path.

There were other experiences at East Burke that help me to this day. During my freshman year, I joined the chess club. The advisor left shortly thereafter, but during our limited time of a few weeks, I learned so much. He showed me that knowledge is the true power -- as he destroyed me at the game! As I instruct students in chess, I use this technique, but I try to make students explain what they are doing while we discuss other options. I use this technique also in teaching as we discuss our processes for solving a problem. In regards to teaching, my senior year provided me with a chance to teach. I got to spend a lot of time helping students in our calculus class. Our teacher was not well and missed some days, and our sweet sub had no clue what we were doing. I tried my best to help the students, but as a senior I was focused on getting my work done and not helping people understand or learn. I would basically tell them how to do their homework but not really ensure they understood the math. I think of this situation as a real missed opportunity. We got through the class, but I am not sure that we got much out of it. When I got to college, I realized just how little of calculus I understood. Looking back on those days, I see how important it is to have a teacher who can really lead and guide.

I have been teaching 20 years, and my future goal is to make it to retirement. I know it may seem silly to say such a thing, but with the current state of the education system and the changes that are affecting our teachers, nothing seems certain anymore. Plus, since I switched states, my retirement started over, so I still have about 13 years to go. During my final years in the education profession, I am striving to stay in the same school. It is hard to make connections with students and the community when a person moves every 5 years. I have also considered pursuing further education and perhaps venturing into administration. In addition, I am assisting a company that helps students get into college and provides online tutoring. If that becomes prosperous, I may decide to follow that path. Whichever of these paths may lie ahead, I plan to follow my heart and continue working with students.

Published September 2020

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