Troup’s TOTY Michael Hays teaches Spanish and ESOL

Published 9:30 am Friday, December 15, 2023

EDITOR’S NOTE: The LaGrange Daily News is doing a Q&A with all of the teachers of the year in the Troup County School System. Today we are writing about Michael Hays, an ESOL, Spanish I and Spanish II teacher at Troup County High School. We asked him 20 questions, and we’ve shortened this interview to some of our favorite responses.

Hays has worked in education for 30 years, and he’s taught at all levels, from first grade to college. He’s been with the Troup County School System for 20 years, working at Troup for all 20.

He’s been married to his wife Dawn for 28 years and the couple has two adult sons, Ben and Brian. Ben is a recent graduate of LaGrange College who is self-employed as a graphic designer and is completing a master’s degree in cybersecurity. Brian recently completed an electrical systems technology diploma at WGTC and is a team leader at Kia Georgia.

Hayes has been a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church in LaGrange, previously teaching a catechism class and serving as treasurer.

Q: What inspired you to become an educator? (Or who?)

A: “Teaching is in my blood. I both come from and married into a family of teachers. Unsurprisingly, I seemed to have an innate desire to teach from a young age. When I was a little boy, I would line up my stuffed animals in front of a magnet board in my bedroom and teach them the alphabet. I continued to see myself as a “teacher” as my peers looked to me for tutoring throughout my school years. I enjoyed helping my friends and seeing them succeed. I majored in Spanish during my undergraduate years with the mission field in mind. I prayerfully and seriously considered a teaching career in South America but received a graduate assistantship that kept me in the States instead. As I worked on my master’s and taught college-level Spanish classes, it became clear I was called to teach. “

Q: What are your career aspirations?

A: “As both an ESOL and Spanish teacher at THS, I am in the unique position of teaching both English and Spanish as a foreign language. Learning a foreign language is a difficult process, and I aspire to make the process of learning as painless — and enjoyable — as possible. I want my ESOL students to learn quickly, as gaining fluency in English is critical to their success both at school and in the community. While they are learning, I aspire to promote kindness and patience, to help create an environment that is conducive to learning by practice and from mistakes (both in and out of the classroom), and to support all who are involved in the nurture and education of my ESOL students.

“For my Spanish students, I aspire to demonstrate the importance of being able to speak a language other than English and to expand my students’ cultural awareness. I hope they will understand the importance of being able to communicate well with others, not hindered by a language barrier. I aspire to educate leaders who want to serve others and recognize the potential for service that exists for a bilingual individual.”

Q: What hidden talent do you have that might surprise your students and our readers?

A: “My students would be surprised that I like to sing. I grew up singing in church choir and have been a member of various choirs and singing ensembles since my teens.”

Q: If your teaching style had a theme song, what would it be?

A: “Always There for You” by Stryper. This song, along with being one of my favorites from the ‘80s, shares a great message about love, devotion, and loyalty. Life can be tough and the world disappointing, but a true friend is a constant one. I work my hardest to be a consistent teacher whose expectations are known and achievable. I hope my students know that I am there for them and want the best for them at all times. I also want to point them to God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

Q: If you could invite any historical figure to speak to your class, who would you choose and why?

A: “Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language, and his writing is supremely creative. I believe he could share interesting tales from his life–serving in the Spanish Navy, being captured by pirates–and give my students insights into good writing.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part about your job?”

A: “It is a tie for me between serving THS as a Spanish-speaker and experiencing student success. I am thankful that I am in a position to translate for Spanish-speaking parents and students. I truly enjoy being called on by our staff to assist and make communication easier. I also love to see my students rise to a challenge and meet it. Whether it is an “aha” moment, a student who improves his/her grade, or a student writing to me from college to say he/she tested out of a semester or more of Spanish, I love seeing my students do well.”

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

A: “One ESOL class can be like teaching five, six, seven, or more classes in one period. Students are on many different levels, with each level learning vastly different content. I have to find ways to divide my time evenly among those levels and to develop content that keeps them engaged and progressing even when not working directly with me.”

Q:  What did it mean to you to be named your school’s teacher of the year?

A: “It is such an honor because it was determined by a faculty vote. I feel appreciated by my colleagues, all of whom I greatly respect, and that makes me feel even more at home at THS, even more a part of the Tiger Family.”