Teacher Thomas McGrady: ‘I want to pass on the wisdom given to me’

Published 5:00 am Friday, December 1, 2023

In the classroom of Thomas McGrady, 35, the process of learning is more important than performance. All of his students know that “progress is more important than perfection” and there is “nothing wrong with being wrong.”

He teaches 10th grade general biology and 12th grade advanced and AP biology at Lake Charles College Prep. His students are given a space to learn that is empathetic, engaging and celebrates student growth. One of his core beliefs as an educator is that grades “should be elective of a student’s current level of learning.”

“By that I mean if a student achieves an A on a test but a D or F on all the work leading up to the test, the student should receive an A, which would validate their struggles as opposed to holding them against the student.”

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This practice created lifelong learners “who continue to learn and grow not for a grade, but for its own sake,” he said.

McGrady is a native of Wilke-Barre, Penn. He is a 2006 high school graduate of the Greater Nanticoke Area School District, and went on to earn his undergraduate degree in biology from Easter University in 2010. This year, he earned a Masters in educational leadership from the American College of Education.

He has taught for nine years and began his educator career at Saint Louis Catholic High School before joining the LCCP team in 2017. His passions have always been rooted in a desire in “walking with young people and helping them navigate the minefield of adolescence.” This passion was transmuted into an interest in being an educator when it was time to build a family, a moment he considers serendipitous.

“I was at a point in my life where I was about to marry my now wife of seven years, Katie Prejean. The prospect of building a life together changed the way I viewed my career and life ambitions.”

Education allows him to use his skills and knowledge to help young people, while also creating space for him to have a healthy home life.

“I am always a husband and father first. The field of education allows me the ability to excel in every area of my life.”

He was blessed with” incredible educators who supported, challenged and empowered” him throughout his years in school, and now it is his goal to pour those experiences back into his students.

“I want to pass on the wisdom that was given to me and work everyday in such a way that those who have invested in my life will have not done so in vain and are proud of the person they helped form.”

The process of teaching a student, beginning to end, is what makes teaching engaging for McGrady.

“Every year, season, weekday, and even class period is different and carries with it new challenges and situations. Trying to navigate that puzzle and find a way to not just meet the students where they are, but push, challenge and inspire them move onward and upward is just endlessly interesting.”

What is even more interesting are the moments “when the unsure, anxious student finally begins to trust in their own ability and giftedness and begins to become freely and fully themselves.”

McGrady believes his relationships with his students “directly correlates” with the successes that take place in his classroom. He doesn’t aim to be their favorite teacher, but he tries to be their best teacher by pushing them to think “deeper, ask better questions and raise the bar of achievement.”

“At the end of the day I think, and hope, my students see me as someone who knew they can do something, even when they thought they couldn’t, believed in them even they didn’t believe in themselves, and allowed them to discover, be, and become their full authentic self and understand their incredible potential.”

A proper education can mold a student into a citizen that thinks critically with a “depth and breadth of concepts and philosophies that can be applied to personal and systemic problems in our communities.” That efficient education also opens doors that lead young adults to opportunities that they will thrive in.

“The world is a complicated place and the problems contained within must be confronted by educated people who understand complexity, nuance, and a plurality of perspectives. The classroom is where people are formed and shaped not to exist in the world as it currently is, but to dream beyond and to change it.”