My reward is having those 30 kids respond to me - when they give me a fist bump or high-5, and smile and say, "That quiz was actually pretty easy, not so bad after all."
Michael Francis, '13 BSED
Mathematics teacher at Mainland High School
Michael Francis, 32, found out what he wanted to do at age 13 - teach. He saw his future, thanks to a great junior high teacher who challenged his skills and bred in him a love of math and teaching.
But, like many early aspirations, it went on hold when other opportunities came to light. For Michael, the Navy caught his interest for a six-year stint, first at the Nuclear Power School for Mechanics, then four years aboard the USS Enterprise. “I needed to see the world for a while,” he says, “but in the end, my Navy experience gave me the confidence to work with the kids and manage the classroom, with a little bit of tough love. It’s about making a stable environment where we trust each other to do our jobs.”
Michael’s first thoughts each morning are what to put up on the whiteboard for classwork review. That priority comes from his tutoring and internship experiences at Daytona State, where it became clear that regularly refreshing facts builds comprehension. “Tutoring was when I really started to believe I could make a difference teaching math to anyone who’s willing to learn,” he explains.
He also brings to the classroom first-hand awareness of overload risks with tough subjects - “I failed calculus in high school, so I know everyone has their hard times, especially teenagers when there’s so much going on in their lives.” Michael teaches math to 155 10th-12th grade students in 6 classes, with 25 exceptional students with challenges and modifications required to help them learn.
His formula for success: “Figure out the school’s dynamics and the population you’re teaching and how to organize your classroom - organization is fundamental to be successful and gain the kids’ respect, especially teens. You have to give them routine and stability, and stay consistent with expectations.”
It’s a two-way street, though, he points out. “I expect them to do the work, including catching my errors.” He humbly accepts their corrections and differentiates instruction as needed. “At my school, I have a very diverse community, so I have to stay pretty sharp to accommodate each and every one of them.”
Michael landed his first job right after graduation at a job fair at Mainland High, where he interned and gained “a great blueprint for running the class” from a teacher-mentor. Now less than six months into his new career, he salutes DSC’s education program, citing the personalized instruction and support. He feels ready for whatever this lifelong career brings.
“I enjoy all the new challenges I get each day - no one day is the same. Teaching - it’s what I can do for 20-plus years and call it home.”