Feature Teacher: Mr. Elder


Malia Danish

Mr. Elder has adjusted to virtual learning but is looking forward to having students in a classroom once more.

For this week’s feature teacher, I chose Mr. Elder.  Although he has been featured a couple times before, I decided to ask him some different questions than usual.

Background information: Where did you go to high school? Where did you go to college? What are your degrees in?

    1. High School – Tyrone
    2. College – University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh, PA
      1. Degree: Bachelors of Arts in History and English Writing
    3. Masters – University of Pittsburgh School of Education
      1. Degree: Master of Arts in Teaching

What are all of the schools that you taught at?

    1. Millennium Charter Academy, North Carolina
    2. Davie County High School, North Carolina
    3. Tyrone Area High School
    4. Kimmel Alternative School, Altoona PA
    5. And of course 🙂 Bellwood!

What accomplishment fills you with pride so far this year?

Honestly, it’s not an accomplishment of mine at all… I’m so proud of the students who have had to jump into this Virtual Learning stuff with no planning or preparation, AND THE JOB YOU ALL HAVE DONE IS AMAZING! I mean, learning online is TOUGH! In high school, I got thrown into online Latin (foreign language) when my Latin teacher moved away right before the start of the school year. I STRUGGLED BIG TIME… Seriously, don’t ask me any Latin phrases! But the way I’ve seen students adapt and attack this virtual learning has really made me beyond proud. 

If you could pass on some wisdom to your student what would it be?

Normally, I’d say be willing to adapt to what gets thrown at you, but at this point, I’d say y’all have that down (there’s a little North Carolina for ya!)

If you could take the students on a field trip to anywhere in the world where would you take them?

Oh man, I’m such a history nerd, so it’d definitely be a history focused trip… Out of the whole world though I’d probably have to say Washington DC. There’s just so much there, in such close proximity, that it’s amazing. 

If money was no object, what would you buy in your classroom and why?

One of the cool things about having gone to Pitt is that they have the “Nationality Rooms” in the Cathedral of Learning – aka Cathy (Check them out if you’re curious https://www.nationalityrooms.pitt.edu/) Each room was essentially set up differently based on how that group traditionally did education. I remember having class in the Norwegian room (my favorite) and it felt like being inside a boat. Since the rooms were different than just a normal classroom, it helped me focus and learn better.  If I could come up with some way of transforming my classroom like that, I’d totally do it! (I doubt Mr. Schreier would allow for a boat looking room!)

If school were a movie, what movie would we all be in? 

Right now, since we’re all stuck at home … I’d have to say school feels like the movie Disturbia. I’ve felt a lot like Shia LeBeouf in the movie creepily watching my neighborhood from my house/porch (lol). Hopefully I’m not the only one who’s been doing that.

How do you think students will remember you in your class?

I hope they remember it fondly … or at least I hope they just remember it! I know when I was a student, I cherished the projects and things we did in class that were “outside of the box” because those were the chances where I could make memories with friends and create things I was proud of… I hope as a teacher I’ve brought those kinds of opportunities to my students. 

What makes a “good day” at school? 

Honestly, and I know this is CHEEEESY, but I really can’t recall any “bad days” at Bellwood. Seriously, I mean it! Any day where I get to come in, work with you all (students), and teach what I’m passionate about (POD) is a good day! 

If you won the lottery and decided to give up teaching, what would you do instead? 

I’ve actually had a recurring dream where I hit the Powerball, AND KEEP TEACHING. Maybe I’m crazy, but in my dream I actually use the money I won to fund students’ business plans as a silent partner if they pass the project and want to actually open the business. See… I even dream about teaching! 

What advice would you give to first year teachers? 

I’d say two things… One, be willing to adapt because nothing ever goes exactly how it’s planned. And two, don’t be afraid to try something – even if you think it will fail. Some of my favorite lessons, I had no clue how they’d go until I tried them. 

What have you been doing during your quarantining and are you looking forward to going back to face to face teaching? 

During the quarantine, aside from the Virtual Teaching stuff, I’ve been hanging out with my wife and son, he’s getting to a fun age – 4 – so he’s learning to ride a bike, play video games, etc. I’ve also been  doing a lot of yard work/landscaping to fix up our back patio area (where I’m sitting right now). Essentially, I’ve been keeping VERY busy. 

As for getting back to school, I do miss the face to face interactions. I miss the banter and chats before and after class. I miss the questions students bring up in discussions. I miss working with students and pestering them to think deeper on the business plan projects! That’s all stuff you can’t replicate very well with virtual learning. So am I looking forward to getting back to in-person school? Yes!