On Monday, January 11, 2016, Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA) President Brig Gen David C. Wesley, USAF, Retired, called R-MA teacher Michael Anderson to the front of the chapel to be recognized with the Exemplary Teacher Award from the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
“I had no idea. I was completely surprised,” Anderson stated later. While he was of course honored by his selection, which was based on a nomination by Wesley, it was the reaction of the students that meant the most to him. They cheered and applauded whole-heartedly as he walked up from the back of the chapel to where Wesley stood. “They were saying, ‘Good for you!’ and ‘Way to go Mr. Anderson!’ and giving me high-fives,” Anderson recalled.
The students’ reaction was in direct proportion to the amount of time, energy, and care that Anderson puts into his calling at Randolph-Macon Academy. As a full-time math teacher, he takes great pains to put the students’ grades into the electronic grade book as quickly as possible, and it is common for students to find a quick notation of “Great job!” or a longer note expounding on problems Anderson has noticed, or even a message to encourage the student to attend tutorial the next day. Anderson makes himself available to the students as much as possible, but holds the line. His hope is that he reaches all of his students, including the ones he has had to reprimand.
“He tries to get along with you. He’s quite funny and well-rounded. Some people don’t like him because he’s hard,” said Samuel Uzoma, a sophomore at R-MA, “but you get more out of his class because of that. He wants you to work hard. He does not like slackers. He sets it up so that if you work hard and you do the homework, you do well on the tests and quizzes.”
“I hit a milestone in September or October of this year,” Anderson said. “I’m in my third year of teaching, and I’ve realized that this isn’t about teaching the content of math, it’s about engaging them to do their best. It’s about helping them develop self-discipline, a sense of responsibility and ownership of their work. I try to push these kids to do the best that they can do, on a basketball court, a cross country course, or in the classroom. I hope they go away saying, ‘Mr. Anderson truly cares.’”
That sentiment is certainly observed by the administration at R-MA. "Michael Anderson demonstrates the passion to connect with every student he teaches. We couldn't be happier to have him recognized for his efforts on our students' behalf," said Academic Dean Jonathan Ezell.
In addition to teaching, Anderson coaches JV basketball and is the assistant coach for cross country. He also proctors just about every SAT offered on the R-MA campus. He easily spends 60 hours or more on campus each week. He is generous with not just his time, but his knowledge and even his own finances. When Wesley announced that Anderson would receive a $500 check as part of the award, it took Anderson only a few seconds to announce that he was in turn donating that to Randolph-Macon Academy.
“R-MA strives to educate young people, providing knowledge, leadership and character, so they can be successful in life,” said Wesley. “Michael Anderson embodies the best of those values — he’s a superb educator, a fine athlete, and a man of deep character and faith. His spontaneous decision to donate the cash portion of the award to our Chapel programs is vintage Michael Anderson – he lives his life in service to others. It is my sincere hope that his selection further establishes in the minds of our students that Mr. Anderson is the sort of person they should work hard to emulate. The students’ reaction to the award announcement suggests to me that they share in our joy in Michael’s selection for this prestigious award.”
Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational day and boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12. Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s Virginia 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) and have the option to participate in a flight program. R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, VA.