Prior career experiences improve teaching ability


Khary Thomas-Rambin

STRIVE FOR SUCCESS: Grady alum Shaun Kleber works with one of his students in Detroit for City Year. Kleber hopes to use this to jump-start his career into education.

Josh Wolfe, Assistant Comment Editor

Teaching at a public school can be challenging, but many Grady teachers feel equipped to adapt to unique situations because they started their careers teaching in many different environments.

“For me, coming to Grady, I already had some of that experience,” said Grady science teacher Jillian Breen, who began her teaching career at Hoover High School near Birmingham, Ala. “I think it’s useful to know some of those tricks ahead of time, to have experiences in classes where behavior management is harder and classes where students are not really interested in what you want to teach them.”

Some teaching environments are tougher to manage than others.

For instance, Grady science teacher Pierre Davis encountered difficulty when he began teaching at what is now Forest Hills Academy, an alternative school that provides education to students whose behavioral problems hindered their ability to learn at traditional public schools.

It just wasn’t a good teaching or learning environment,” Davis said. “The majority of the kids had behavioral issues, and there was a big gang problem at the time, and all these people would go to the same school. So, there was a lot of tension in the school.”

The experience gave Davis a unique perspective on teaching and social issues in Atlanta when he arrived at Grady in 2015.

“It was eye-opening, but what it did was it introduced me to education, but more so the culture of Atlanta,” Davis said. “It actually gave me a lot of perspective that opened my eyes to the fact that there were a lot more societal issues than a lack of education.”

Some teachers weren’t immediately introduced to difficult classroom settings to begin their careers.

History teacher Sara Looman had a variety of jobs, including admissions officer at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. and working for the Georgia Shakespeare Theater Company, before entering her first year of teaching at Inman Middle School in 2006. Having a wide range of experiences helped Looman thrive in teaching.

“I think that my life experiences enhance my teaching,” Looman said. “I think working in a collegiate setting with young people, being a mom, working part time in the theater — all those experiences in the real world can enhance your understanding in the classroom. I liked coming to teaching late in life.”

Current Westminster Schools math teacher Kevin Mylod had a similar career path as Looman. After graduating from Villanova University, Mylod worked an account executive for Valley Forge Press, an advertisement company that produces medical journals, in Philadelphia, PA. but he quickly struggled to remain motivated to continue his career despite making solid money.

“I was making good money, and it was an easy job, but I got extremely bored pretty quickly,” Mylod said. “I asked myself ‘Can you really see yourself doing this for a career?’ So I had to be honest with myself and say ‘no’.”

Mylod eventually worked his way into teaching, and he feels incredibly grateful and excited to be in his 17th year teaching at the Westminster Schools. Mylod feels that the camaraderie between the students and teachers and the extensive opportunities Westminster owns creates a great environment for him.

“The kids are fantastic, and the faculty are amazing,” Mylod said. “Many of them have come and gone, but everyone here is pretty passionate about what they do and come to school and try to be the best every day. Lastly, there are a lot of classroom opportunities Westminster affords to kids and faculty, so it’s an exciting place each and every year.”

However, Looman believes teaching at a public school was more practical for her, and she also stressed the importance of having an impact on public education.

“I think diversity is great; we need those opportunities, but [private school teaching] would not be for me,” Looman said. “I really feel like the foundation of our democratic principles lie on this being successful, and if we fail here in the public schools to educate our citizens, then we will fail as a nation. This is important work in a public school, and for us to have a robust public school option in this country is vital.”

Senior Ethan Damiani is thrilled with the experiences he has at Grady and the impact his teachers have had on him.

“I definitely think that I set myself up better for the future by going to Grady,” Damiani said. “The diversity and independence that Grady offers allows for students to grow into their own person and really prepare for college and their life after. The teachers at Grady are simply incredible. They don’t only care about your development as a student, but also as a human and how you should behave.”

Some new teachers are just entering the education community. Grady alum Shaun Kleber graduated from the University of Georgia in 2016 and worked in management consulting for two years at McKinsey & Company in Atlanta, Ga. before earning his current job as a leader for City Year in Detroit in 2018. City Year is an organization to help students who are at risk of dropping out of school to remain on track and graduate on time.

Kleber wants to use City Year as a springboard into a teaching career, and he is already inspired by the impact he has had on his students in Detroit.

“This is where I want to start,” Kleber said. “What motivates me is recognizing that I can be one positive input in a system that has become pretty broken and underserved, especially with Detroit in the past couple years. I definitely can see the growth, both academically and in terms of my students’ motivation, their approach to learning and their future.”

Although Breen acknowledges teaching has its difficulties, she continues to see the joy in teaching her students and establishing connections with them.

“I think whether you’ve got students that don’t want to be here because they don’t care about education, because they are having a tough time at home, or because it’s a science class, and they want to be an English major, either way, the key is trying to find a way to connect with them, so I definitely think it’s rewarding,” Breen said.