Welcome to April! We’re getting ever closer to those wonderful summer months, but we still have time to highlight and celebrate some talented and hard-working educators before our well-deserved break. If you have someone in mind for May or June, CLICK HERE to recommend another member for the spotlight!
April’s spotlight member is Kevin Moylan, an English teacher at University Park Campus School. Mr. Moylan has taught for 22 years in middle and high school, has two children, and lives in Worcester with his wife, another teacher in the system.
His nominator said:
There aren’t enough kind phrases that I can say about Mr. Moylan. He goes above and beyond to teach the students of our school and holds them to a high standard. His engaging teaching methods inspire students to rise to the occasion. In addition, he is always willing to help out a fellow teacher in need, covering classes and attending special events whenever possible. As our former instructional coach and a senior member of our faculty, he is constantly a voice of wisdom and has remarkable insight into what makes students “tick” and how to tweak a lesson to make it better. He is always incredibly pleasant and is quick with a joke or a pun to lighten the mood. Kevin Moylan is, in short, the heart and soul of our school. I aspire to someday be as good of a teacher as he is.
An Interview with Mr. Moylan
How’d It All Start?
I majored in English at Worcester state. I got a degree, and my sister was in the system – so on her suggestion, I applied and was hired in April as a long term sub. It was a very challenging situation, working with a group of 7th graders at Sullivan middle school who had a string of substitutes all year long. I didn’t have any background or training – I really just flew by the seat of my pants.
That first year was hard. The kids challenged everyone who came in, myself included, but I stuck it out. I was lucky enough to work with an incredible group of energetic new teachers who really cared about the kids. We always tried to learn new strategies from each other, and even if we didn’t agree, we were always able to have an open discussion and do what we thought would be best for the kids. All of them are still teaching, and we helped each other through a very difficult year. I promised myself that as I kept becoming a better teacher, my job wouldn’t ever be that hard again.
You’ve been teaching for 22 years now – what’s changed?
For me personally, I’ve learned a lot more about teaching. The biggest takeaway was probably just to work hard on planning a good lesson; the better your plan, and the more adaptable you are, the smoother your lesson runs. I’ve learned to be more creative with my lessons, and to make sure that I keep my lessons interesting and student-centered, with the kids doing real and valuable work.
There have also been a lot of amazing advances in education, especially in the technology that just makes information so much more accessible and lets us access so much as teachers and students. But what’s helped me improve as a teacher the most has been other teachers. Observing other good teachers at Sullivan, or Doherty, or here at UPCS, watching teachers run powerful PD, it’s all been incredibly influential.
I like to say “A rising tide lifts all ships”. It’s not the formal stuff that changes minds and changes teachers – it’s seeing many different approaches, what works and what doesn’t, and always keeping the needs of the kids at the center.
Can you expand on that? What do you mean “keep kids at the center”?
I think you have to really care about your students. You need to figure out what they need – and I mean beyond IEPs and 504s, though those are important. You need to figure out which students need a break, and give it to them when they need it. You need to understand students, to be patient, and to learn the best ways to reach them – I always ask “What’s my in with this student? How can I motivate them? How can I understand them?” On the flip side, you need to know when to step back, when not to push too hard – finding that balance is one of the ongoing challenges of my professional life.
Is there any specific moment or story from that professional life you’d like to share?
Yes! I’m a nontraditional teacher and a nontraditional student. I dropped out of college at first, and I really started to move towards teaching when I met my wife. She was going to Brown to study education, and as I spent more time with her, I was really inspired by what she and her friends were doing. They were focused on and dedicated to education.
Even though I had dropped out, I always knew I’d go back to school. My mom – who raised ten kids – always expected that I’d go to college, and I wanted to be an educated person. My wife helped bring that back into focus, and I went back to school at 26, and graduated when I was 29. I’m living proof that the “light” can go on at any time – the one that illuminates your path – and I know that it’s never too late.
An important truth, thank you. Do you have any advice to share with other teachers?
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. That’s a quote I stole from a former colleague of my wife, but it’s true. Good teaching is not a flash in the pan. Do well by yourself, work hard, do what you need to do for the students – but spend some time on yourself too. Don’t burn yourself out. Find things that will keep you satisfied and keep teaching fresh – that’s the secret to loving it for 22 years. Or longer.
Thank you Mr. Moylan for your thoughftul response. To all members – if you have someone in mind for the May or June article, CLICK HERE to recommend another member for the spotlight!