Many alumni of Spartanburg Day School have gone on to be teachers. Just four of the many Griffins who have taken this path are highlighted here. All of them credit their experiences at Spartanburg Day School with helping to prepare them to teach.
Stewart Clark ’05, Rose Cochran ’13, Max Corbin ’05, John McBride ’12, recently reported what they are currently doing. While none of them were formally trained to be teachers in college, each of them are passionate about their teaching and enjoying what they do.
- by Mike Corbin
Stewart Clark '05
Rose Cochran '13
Max Corbin '05
John McBride '12
It is probably no surprise that Stew Clark attended Furman University. Older brother, Ryan, an '01 graduate of SDS, preceded him at Furman, and their parents Merrie and Gary Clark met while students at the school. Merrie worked as a teacher and administrator at SDS, and Gary was the school’s fourth Headmaster before returning to Furman to become athletic director.
Stew majored in Chinese studies at Furman, lived and studied in the country as a student and decided to live there and start a business soon after graduating. Stew settled in Suzhou but was unable to get his donut shop off the ground. To make ends meet, Stew began to do something that he vowed to his parents that he would never do. He began to teach.
“I held a variety of jobs in those first two years. Companies would often hire me out to different places. I taught at public kindergartens, early development centers, Montessori kindergartens, primary schools, middle schools, high schools, prestigious universities, Korean aftercare programs, and all types of mom and pop after school programs.”
Stew overcame his initial reluctance to teach and has made education a career.
“It has been an interesting experience. I went from managing a group of five teachers who taught 100 students, to managing 250 plus teachers who teach 7000 students. If you had asked me 12 years ago before I went on my first summer China experience if I ever saw myself living in China for more than five years, I would have said, ‘No way.’ I am now married and planning on having a child in the next two years. My wife speaks absolutely no English, and we communicate completely in Chinese. My Chinese continues to improve daily. I don’t think I will ever see myself as fluent, but I am more than able to communicate, write and read. For my future, I see myself being here until it just doesn’t feel right. I just completed my masters in education and might start looking at working at international schools. I would like to head back to the states at some point, but it depends on a lot of factors including my wife’s visa, plans for children and job opportunities. China has changed so much in the 12 years that I have lived here. A lot of what I missed back home I can now find here. In fact when I go home, I now get reverse culture shock and miss a lot of things here in China. The city I live in now is barely recognizable, which is both a blessing and a curse. Only one thing is constant in China, and that is change.”
“I think I will go with the flow until that flow takes me back home. I thank all my teachers at SDS for instilling me with values and setting an example for what being an excellent educator is. I often find myself in class reflecting on my previous teachers at SDS, from my kindergarten class with Miss Kim all the way to my high school literature class with Mr. Johnson.”
While enrolled at Sewanee: The University of the South, Rose studied and worked in a variety of places outside of Tennessee: Charleston, New York City, Jamaica, Maryland, Rhode Island and the Czech Republic. After graduating from Sewanee with a degree in art history with honors earlier this year, Rose embarked on another adventure, traveling to Spain to teach for a year in Madrid.
Rose is an “Auxiliar de Cultura” this year in a primary school in Vicalvaro, a suburb of Madrid. She is employed and paid by the government of Madrid. The placement, her visa, work permit and other paperwork was handled by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). She shares a small apartment in the city center of Madrid with two other flatmates and commutes to work via metro and bus each school day. Her days are busy ones.
“So a typical school day is a full one for me. School starts at 9 after an hour’s commute. After teaching two classes, there is a half-hour coffee break for teachers, which is really important because it’s a time for me to get to know the other teachers better and practice my Spanish. Then I have another class, followed by an hour of lunch and recess for the students. I use this time to prepare work for the students I tutor privately outside of school. After this break I have two classes that end at 4 p.m. Then I usually go home, take a quick siesta and commute to a private tutoring class. I work with children as young as 3 and adults as old as 40 during these private classes. I work with the 3-year-old for two hours while her mother studies. I speak with her in English, and we practice simple things while we play. The 40-year old I work with is a one-hour conversational class. I usually send him an article in advance for him to read, and we sit together and discuss it so he can practice his English. I also tutor students from my school on whatever it is I think they are struggling with.”
“Some things have surprised me. I had no idea I would learn so much during school with these children. I leave everyday knowing something new. I learned today all about the geography of Spain and what the different regions of Spain are known for. Madrid honestly is just my favorite place. The way of life here is so relaxed and calm that sometimes I forget I live in a city.”
“I am incredibly grateful to SDS for hosting our Spanish exchange students from Las Rosas in Madrid. Elena Parlagne, the student my family hosted, is the Spanish sister I never had. She also just graduated from college and is working in the city. I see her at least once a week, have Sunday lunches at her house with her family and get to hang out with all of her friends, which I love because they are awesome people, plus I get to practice my Spanish. I am really excited for the year to come.”
“I do not think I would be where I am today without the support and guidance of Nancy Corbin. Mrs. Corbin encouraged my artistic pursuits in high school and helped me prepare applications for a summer at RISD in Rhode Island as well as a month in Tuscany, Italy with MICA. Mrs. Corbin introduced both opportunities to me, and I believe my trip to Tuscany was the spark that lit my love for travel. I remember being extremely nervous to spend the summer so far away from home, and I even came close to not going, but Mrs. Corbin insisted that I could do it. Her consistent belief in my abilities eventually led me to believe in myself and I cannot thank her enough for that.”
“I hope in a few months I will have a better idea about my next step. I would love to get a masters in art history, but I haven't decided yet.”
Rose's artwork on display as part of the SDS permanent collection.
Max joined Stew in first grade at SDS, and they shared many classes and experiences together, including basketball, eventually playing on teams that won a conference championship and reaching the state semi-finals. Max was awarded a ROTC scholarship to attend Furman, and he and Stew roomed together their freshman and sophomore years at the school.
Upon graduation in 2009, Max chose to serve in the South Carolina National Guard and moved to Charleston. His Guard unit was activated and sent to Afghanistan in 2013. Max would return to South Carolina safely with his unit after serving nine months overseas.
“I enjoyed my experience in the National Guard. I met a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds and made some good friends. I think being deployed and facing challenges while in the military helped me be confident that I can overcome almost anything. My time in the army also made me appreciate how important personal freedom is and how important making my own choices is to me.”
Shortly after his return from Afghanistan, Max got a call from a friend from college who was recruiting for a bi-lingual school in Honduras. Max was soon on his way to another adventure.
Max married another teacher in that first year of teaching. They are blessed with two children. Max took a position in another school at the end of his first year and is in his third year of teaching at Santa Barbara Bilingual School, his fourth year in Honduras.
“I love living in Honduras. Honduras is a beautiful country with beautiful people. I love being a teacher and working with young people. It is really fun. I think my family will be here for at least two more years and then maybe we will move to a new country to teach.”
“If you would have asked me while I was at the Day School if I was going to be a teacher I would have quickly said 'No.' I would have said 'No' five years ago. On a strong gut feeling, I moved to Honduras and tried it and wound up falling in love with teaching, along with my wife.”“I think SDS is a great place. I don't know how it specifically prepared me for teaching. I think it just prepared me for anything. My best friends are from the Day School. It will always be a special place for me.”
The summer after graduating from Washington and Lee University with a major in history in 2016, John underwent some intensive training with the Teach for America program and was assigned to Hendersonville Elementary School, near Walterboro, in Colleton County.
Teach for America was founded in 1990 and recruits and supports individuals to teach in predominantly rural and urban situations across the county. John is in his second year of commitment in the Teach for America program. The program had around 100 individuals teaching in South Carolina at the beginning of 2017.
John is an employee of the Colleton County school district. When his current year of teaching ends, his commitment to the Teach for America program ends. John is uncertain about what he will be doing next year.
John is seriously considering teaching next year. If he does, he will receive his state teaching certification. During his first summer with the Teach for America program, he completed three classes and earned nine credit hours toward his certification.
“I may continue teaching here for at least another year. My students have been great. I am very proud of them, and hate the thought of leaving them. I would also find it tough to leave my colleagues and administrators who have been very good to me.”
Where John teaches is about five miles out of downtown Walterboro on the Hendersonville Highway and surrounded by farms and woodlots and a scattering of homes off the roadway. There are 376 students currently enrolled in grades 4K through 5th grade in the school. The building is a little more than 10 years old, clean and inviting. A large, colorful mural covers a wall of the school’s main entrance area.
One day in October during a visit, John was teaching 26 third graders. In a short period during one afternoon, John led the class in the study of a variety of subjects: math, with a review of the multiplication tables that included a rousing class sing-along, health, with a lesson on positive and negative peer pressure combined with vocabulary review, and social studies, with a review of a reading about South Carolina highlighted by grouping the class into teams and a spirited playing of “South Carolina Jeopardy.” After reminding his class to review this material yet again before a quiz on the unit scheduled the next day, the regular school day ended and John soon released his students, some heading for the buses, others for car pick-up and many others for after school programs.
John immediately headed for the school cafeteria where he met a large group of students in the school’s “Robotics” program. He supervises the students until 6 p.m. each school day. That evening, John showed up at the local McDonald’s for a school fundraiser, working on the line for an hour and half.
John has full days and dedicates considerable time out of the classroom for preparation and ongoing student evaluation. John seems to thrive on the challenges and demands of his job and credits Spartanburg Day School for much of his attitude in how he approaches teaching.
John was another Day School “lifer,” a Griffin from kindergarten to high school graduation.
“I was thinking the other day, and – Mrs. Corbin will probably enjoy hearing this (as will Mrs. Barnet) – that being on the drama team at SDS has prepared me more than any other single thing that I have experienced to teach. I have a role to play when I teach. Every single day is like a one-man show for six hours in the classroom.”