Mathemagic

30 Aug

This email from Greg Clites (’74 meteorology, MS ’81 civil engineering/water resources) caught my eye:

“I have not won the lottery,” he writes, “except for winning my wife over 30 years ago. I have not won a Nobel Prize, but I have raised three children now in their 20s. I have not won any professional sports championships, but I have helped to coach a state championship baseball team. I am not a wizard, but I do teach high school math. So, on second thought, maybe I AM a wizard.”

Interesting. I wanted to learn more.

It turns out that Greg Clites is doing exactly what he wants to do: He’s teaching math at Tecumseh High School in a small town about 30 miles from his home in Ann Arbor, Mich. It’s hard work – 60-70 hours a week during the school year, plus the time he spends coaching baseball – but it’s what he loves.

Greg started his career in Omaha, Neb., working with water resources for a government agency. He met his wife Anne there, an Ann Arbor native, and they moved to Michigan in 1982. There he worked as a computer programmer for the University of Michigan and later for a computer start-up company.

He went back to school to become a teacher. Now, in his 10th year at Tecumseh, he says he enjoys what he does and doesn’t suffer from the burnout that is common with long-time teachers.

“If I had been a teacher at 25, I wouldn’t be the teacher I am now,” Greg says. “I wouldn’t be as patient. I think it’s been good to change careers. You stay fresh.”

We met with Greg in his Tecumseh High School classroom, and Jim got him to do silly geometric shapes with his fingers for the photo shoot. Greg was a good sport.

The skills he’s teaching his students today will help them in the future, he says. Even if they don’t go into a mathematically intense career field, his algebra classes will help them choose a phone plan or take out a home mortgage.

“Teaching math was a calling,” he says. “I don’t have any desire to retire.”

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