Get to Know 2019 Teacher of the Year: Mr. McMahon

Maria Castro

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Karl Menninger once said, “What a teacher is, is more than what he teaches.” The 2019 teacher of the year, Mr. Daniel McMahon, has been teaching at MHS for over 19 years, and shows that a good teacher can change the lives of their students in the smallest of ways. This September will mark Mr.McMahon’s 20th year teaching at Manville High School, and throughout the years he has taught several classes including English 9-12, AP English Literature, Public Speaking, and Film Appreciation. Along with teaching, Mr.McMahon has also been involved in a myriad of activities at MHS; he was formerly the faculty adviser for the yearbook and the newspaper, he is currently the teacher association president, and this year he was a co-adviser for the Senior class and the faculty adviser for the Gender-Sexualities Alliance. Mr.McMahon is definitely a teacher that does it all. I had the opportunity to sit down with the teacher of the year and ask him some questions about this achievement, his time here at MHS, and what teaching means to him.

 

Q: What was your reaction to finding out you’d been named “Teacher of the Year?”

McMahon: I was happy. I was actually on my prep doing some work in the teacher’s lounge, by myself, when they announced it. I heard my name and said “Aye!” and I looked around and no one was there. I was definitely surprised, I didn’t even know that I’d been nominated.

Q: What led you to becoming a teacher in the first place?

McMahon: I actually did other things first. I was in sales, I did quality control for Haagen Dazs ice cream, but then I went back to school. I was actually a latecomer, I was in my early 30s when I first started teaching. I was looking for something more that wasn’t the same job day in and day out, I was looking for something that felt like I was making a difference.

Q: What is your teaching philosophy?

McMahon: It’s all about connections. As a teacher, making connections with my students. For my students, having them make connections with what we read and being able to use that further on in life. To create “life-long learners,” as they say.

Q: What are some major expectations that you have of your students?

Mcmahon: On a personal level, for them to be respectful of themselves and others, and respectful of me or the instructor in the room. On a student level, I expect them to work to their ability, put their energy into learning, and still get some joy out of the learning experience.

Q: What would the students be surprised to find out about you?

McMahon: I’m fairly open with everyone in class, but they’re always surprised to find out that I worked in the ice cream industry and I tasted ice cream for a living.

Q: In which other teacher’s class would you like to enroll, even for a day? Why?

McMahon: Mr.Shannon’s class. I have sat in his class, and he makes me wish I was in fourth grade. He just does a lot of interesting things and really stimulates the students. And I also think that in fourth grade, students are a lot more open to learning.

Q: We know that you teach English for all grades, as well as the film appreciation class, so what are your “trapped on a desert island” books or movies?

McMahon: Movies would have to be “Empire Strikes Back and “On the Waterfront.” Books, The Once and Future King and The Godfather.

Q: What’s the best/worst thing about being a teacher?

McMahon: The best thing is the reason I got into it; it’s something different everyday. It’s never the same day twice. The worst thing, really has nothing to do with teaching, but with the perception some people have outside of the career. That we “only work 10 months a year,” or we “make too much money.” That’s the worst, having to deal with the public perception, that they don’t know what a teacher is.

Q: What’s been your best moment teaching?

McMahon: There’s been so many, it’s hard to pick one. There’s a certain amount of pride when you advise a class for four years, and you watch them graduate, that’s a big one. […] It’s also prideful that I’ve been in it long enough that I have former students who are teachers now, and in fact I work with several of them now in the district. That’s definitely a sense of pride, seeing students you taught go into the career.

Q: What accomplishment fills you with pride so far this year?

McMahon: I think a lot has to do with being a class advisor this year, because I haven’t done in about 15 years. Watching the students carry off “Mr. Manville,” was really prideful because that was really a student driven production. It’s always really prideful to see your students on the stage, like yourself (Maria Castro) and Gabi, even though I don’t run those productions, it’s more about the big moments you have with the school. To be honest, I’m taking a lot of pride in seeing how Mr.Beers and Mr. Hemberger are changing things in a positive way.

Q: What do you think makes a good teacher?

McMahon: I think flexibility is very important. I think you have to care for your students, and be invested in the education process and in your district.

Q: How do you think students will remember you and your class?

McMahon: I think they’ll remember that we were mutually respectful, most of the time. They learned some things, laughed a little bit, but came out of it a little wiser. Hopefully a little more educated too.

Q: If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, especially your Seniors, what would you share?

McMahon: Don’t be so rooted in one idea or one way of doing things. Always look for an alternate, and always be open to new thoughts or new ideas.

 

Based on his answers, it’s evident that Mr.Mcmahon has a passion for what he does, and his students see it everyday in and out of class. When asked about the teacher of the year, senior Marina Saburova said, “He’s probably the best English teacher I’ve had. You can tell that he’s passionate about teaching and he cares about his students, which makes learning from him more fun.”

Senior class treasurer Sammy Zuza also said, “He’s the best English teacher. He trusts his students, he gives them independence and responsibilities that help prepare them for the future. He taught me to succeed on my own while still always being there to support me. And he’s very level headed, never yelled, he’s extremely kind and cares a lot about his students. I want to thank him for that.”

It’s clear that the teacher of the year puts his all into his work and making his students feel comfortable and heard. It takes a lot to be a teacher, but it takes even more to be a teacher that leaves such an impact on his students. Once again, congratulations Mr.Mcmahon, MHS wouldn’t be the same without you.