Spotlight: 10 Questions for Jordan McGaughey (MO '17)January 30, 2018
Social studies teacher Jordan McGaughey (MO ’17) hopes kids leave his class charged about learning and prepared for college-level work: “If students are passionate about what they are learning, they’ll seek out more education as they get older.” He received Missouri’s 2017-18 Milken Educator Award on October 17, 2017, at Seckman High School in Imperial.
1. What went through your mind when you heard Jane Foley call your name at your surprise notification?
Jordan McGaughey: Pure shock, joy and amazement. When Dr. Foley called my name, I was left wondering why I was selected, because there are so many great teachers at Seckman High School. My goal as a Milken Educator is to represent the incredible teachers at Seckman High and in the Fox C-6 School District through the wonderful opportunities that I know the Milken Foundation provides.
2. How did your students respond to your Milken Award? What impact has it had on them?
Jordan: The best part of the Milken Award announcement was the reaction from my students. At the end of the day, everything I do in my classroom is to help and support my students. To hear the ovation I received from them, and to hear from past students since my notification, has easily been my favorite part of winning the Milken Award.
3. How did you end up in education?
Jordan: Throughout my high school career I had always considered becoming an educator, but my passions were split between education and journalism. During my senior year of high school, I was lucky enough to take two classes that changed my life forever: Criminal Justice and Creative Writing. On the surface, those two seem like an odd mix, but in different ways each was life-changing. Criminal Justice piqued my interest in ways no class had before. I had always loved Social Studies, but seeing the passion that my Criminal Justice teacher poured into class each and every day made me aware of how fulfilling and life-altering the teaching profession could be. Criminal Justice motivated me to want to devote my life towards the education of social studies and the social sciences.
Creative Writing was also life-changing, but in different ways. Creativity had never been my strong suit as a student, and I often dreaded any project that required creative thought. The passion, energy, and engaging lessons and projects that my Creative Writing teacher had us do that year changed this completely. My Creative Writing teacher taught me to challenge myself, to put myself outside of my comfort zone, and to always put my all into everything I do (her consistent rallying cry was "Carpe diem," or "Seize the day"). Creative Writing not only helped make me a better and more creative thinker and writer; it also motivated me to put my all into everything I do in life in ways that many other classes did not.
4. Who are your role models as an educator?
Jordan: Glenn Woodruff (my American History teacher) and Trela Rottinghaus (my Creative Writing teacher) motivated me to love and be passionate about education. When I decided to pursue a career in education, it was on the backs of those two (and many more) teachers at Crystal City High School who were passionate about and dedicated to education.
5. What memories stand out from your first year of teaching?
Jordan: My first year of teaching was simultaneously extremely difficult and very rewarding. I taught World History and American Government, and that first year served as a crash course on classroom management and building relationships with both students and parents. Seeing students struggle to understand complicated concepts within the United States Constitution prompted me to seek out ways to differentiate my instruction to best fit the needs of my kids. I looked for professional development anywhere I could find it, and I am thankful that the Social Studies department at Seckman High School worked with me as diligently as they did to help me better differentiate what I do in my classroom to meet my students’ needs.
6. What are students most likely to remember about their time in your class?
Jordan: I hope students look back on my class as one that prepared them for the rigors of Advanced Placement and college-level classes in an environment that encouraged creativity and passion. In my mind, if students are passionate about what they are learning, they’ll keep learning and seek out more education as they get older. That spark for future preparedness and self-education often starts and ends with teachers. I always want to be the teacher who motivates students to work diligently and passionately on expanding their education.
7. What’s your biggest challenge in the classroom?
Jordan: The amount of time I have in a day. Next year our high school is moving to block scheduling, which will allow us 90-minute blocks of time with our students. I am very excited about this, because I often find myself running out of time. Meaningful connections come from deep collaborative learning, which is often hard to get to in a 45-minute class.
8. How do you think you’ll use your $25,000 Award?
Jordan: I may apply some of it towards a specialist’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. My wife and I are also taking a trip to Europe. I’d also like to use some of the money in my classroom and donate some to an educational foundation or charity.
9. What would you say to a student who expresses interest in a career in education?
Jordan: I would tell that student to pursue a career in education with passion. We need amazing teachers, and the country is full of students who can, and in some cases will, become great educators. Becoming an educator was one of the best choices I've ever made, and I truly feel honored and privileged to be teaching.
10. What’s your definition of success?
Jordan: Watching the moment that something clicks for a student. Witnessing that "aha!" moment never grows old and drives me to be a better educator each and every day.
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