Mr. Young Takes the Unexpected Path to Teach at Norristown

Teacher Feature


NAHS Staff

Mr. Young (second from right) with his students holding up the Trophy from Chess Club.

Daniel Martinez, Staff Reporter

A lot of people won’t even bother looking at a math problem, especially if they think it’s not worth their time doing something that’s not going to help them in their future lives. For Michael, Young, math is his passion and motivation. As a math teacher at Norristown Area High School, Young loves teaching and dedicates his time to help students understand math in a better and easier way.

With such commitment to his craft, Young tells his students to do a morning fraction of the day (FOD), which helps strengthen their understanding of numbers and the relationship that numbers can have. For students, like myself, who do not like math, Young would give up his time just to make sure his students understand what they’re doing and he also makes sure they’re prepared for upcoming tests. Young is an inspiration to all kids learning math.

Young was born in 1970 in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus was not Young’s forever home, as he actually moved quite a lot. He lived in several places including Boston, Cleveland, Clearwater, Hermosa Beach, Pasadena, Washington D.C, and other parts of Maryland. Out of all of the places he has lived,  Young’s favorite location would undoubtedly be Hermosa Beach. “I wish to retire there someday,” stated Young.

He grew up spending most of his teenage years in Washington D.C. and Florida. In high school, Young struggled and did not finish 9th grade. No matter how hard he tried, he messed up quite a few times but failing only made him try even harder. Young works hard and puts his whole heart into what he does, which encouraged him to get a GED at the age of 20.

Young’s inspiration for working with teenagers came from a summer intern, a college student who worked at a school that Young attended when he was growing up. The intern became a school psychologist, giving him the idea to work with teenagers. Inspired, Young eventually packed his bags and headed out to Pennsylvania, where he then attended Temple University.

Young’s education did not always follow a clear path. He went to community college in his home state in 1991, but it did not go well. He took one course and failed it, which made him reconsider school. Young then transferred to Temple University. Later on, he moved from Pennsylvania out to Los Angeles with a woman, and they both attended Pasadena Community College. He did really well there, and even earned grants to help pay for the rest of his schooling. Young earned an associate degree in psychology.

Later on Young returned to Pennsylvania and went to Temple again, this time graduating with honors. Young worked hard and did well in school, but at the time, he didn’t realize how well he was actually doing. Young joked that he didn’t even know what the titles for the honors meant.

“Summa cum laude,” said Young, “I could barely even say the word let alone know what it meant back then.”

After working for a little while, Young went back to school at Gwynedd Mercy, where he earned credits towards becoming a guidance counselor. He realized that there were a lot of supervising hours to complete for this certification so he was unable to finish it at the time. While Young does not have a guidance counselor certificate, he currently holds a MA + 30, which means he earned 30 semester hours of graduate credit above the master’s degree within 21 hours of the graduate credit.

Young was not always on the path to becoming a teacher. Before he started his teaching career, Young worked as a carpenter, a bartender, motorcycle courier (where delivered mail in LA via motorcycle), an employee in a wilderness program with adjudicated youth, and an occupational therapy aid in an alternative high school for gang youth.

He was originally interested in becoming a psychologist, but he got advice from his soon-to-be father-in-law to work in a high school in order to still be able to work with teenagers. He let Young know that the time spent becoming a teacher wouldn’t be as long as it would be on the track of becoming a psychologist. Young mentioned that his future father-in-law said, “I want you to have a good and permanent job if you are going to marry my daughter!”

In 2002, when Young was 32 years old, he landed his first job as a teacher. He completed his student teaching in Philadelphia and that’s where he remained to start his career. Young’s first job was in Philadelphia, but things weren’t going as he was expecting them to. He decided to look for work elsewhere. Luckily, Norristown was hiring.

Young loves teaching students and making them learn every day. He is motivated to do the work he does by getting students to know he is likable and helping his students understand that he cares about them, understands them, and wants to help them. He wants kids to know he isn’t scary even though math can be scary sometimes.

This wasn’t always his approach to teaching but after years of people telling him about relationship building, he decided this was important if he wanted his students to ever learn anything from him. Young’s experience has taught him to change in order to help the students. He saw that students liked teachers who were cool and passed out easy grades but this wasn’t helping the students. Young teaches his students important skills that will better prepare them for the future.

Math is essential to a student’s future and for Young, it’s his favorite subject to teach. He enjoys being a part of students achieving their goals, helping them strengthen their weaknesses in math. He loves being part of the process of students achieving some type of success (getting a job, doing well, feeling good about themselves, etc.). He likes when students have the “a-ha” moments, seeing them get better and better every day along with understanding the problems. Young’s family laughs about him becoming a teacher not because he isn’t fit for the job but because of the path that got him here. His family still supports what he does no matter how long it took him to figure it out.

Though he is so successful in the classroom, Young embraces the challenges of virtual teach.

“This year I enjoy teaching more than I ever have,” he said.

He pointed out that there are a lot of negatives to virtual teaching but also a lot of positives. “I choose my thoughts,” he said. “If I can’t change the situation, I can change my attitude towards it.”

He often suggests to students if they are tired in front of the screen, get up and stretch. Virtual learning makes it easier for 1 on 1 connection and learning with his students. Students are able to ask for help without worrying about their peers’ opinions. He has learned a lot of new programming and software that have been helpful this year. He mentioned that these tools may not always be easy to use but they are very rewarding.

With teachers like Michael Young, students have someone there to support them and cheer them on. Especially in the area of math, having someone with so much passion can make the difference between a student’s love or hate for the subject.

As  Young says, “Math is one of the most beautiful things there is,” and no obstacle such as virtual learning will get in the way of its beauty.