Spencer Ferguson:

WVHS alumni returns to teach

Posted 9/5/18

Spencer Ferguson, an Illinois native turned Cleveland local, has returned from his Midwestern home state to teach biology at his alma mater, Walker Valley High School.

The 24-year-old …

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Spencer Ferguson:

WVHS alumni returns to teach


Spencer Ferguson, an Illinois native turned Cleveland local, has returned from his Midwestern home state to teach biology at his alma mater, Walker Valley High School.

The 24-year-old typically teaches sophomores, but also works as one of the assistant coaches for the Walker Valley football team.

He started student teaching at Walker Valley in 2017, but only started officially teaching this semester.

“It’s a lot different being on this side of the teacher’s desk, because I get to make the rules,” Ferguson said. “It’s a lot more rewarding than people give it credit for. There’s a lot of ways to help them. Teaching them is one thing, but you also get to help them grow up, in a sense.”

One of the things he noticed about teaching is how students will shout to him to greet him in the hallway. He said this is something he used to do when he was a student, and he's been blown away by how many of today's students possess traits mirroring those he used to have.

Earning his bachelor of science in integrative biology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Ferguson then went on to earn a master’s degree in education from Lee University; the return to Cleveland was not his first plan, though.

Originally wanting to work for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Ferguson said he wanted to go to foreign countries with higher levels of need and help in whatever ways he could.

“I always wanted to help people, because I’ve been given so much by my parents that I want to help others have what I’ve always had,” he reflected. “Teaching people science is an extra motivator.”

He said he went “home” to Illinois to attend school, but came back to Cleveland for work. He attributes this to his apparent love of homecomings, as he moved to Illinois almost immediately following his high school graduation. The reason for his family’s initial move to Cleveland was due to his father’s job at Bowater. His father later got another position at a company in Illinois, which led to his parents’ move back home. At the moment, his parents live there while he lives in Cleveland.

After he earned his bachelor’s, Ferguson considered teaching or medical school, and by chance, a local friend, Neil Hartert, was searching for a roommate and offered Ferguson the opportunity to room with him while he completed his master’s at Lee. He stressed the weight Lee University degrees have in the community, and how thankful he is to now have one.

Before working at Walker Valley, Ferguson worked  as the front desk associate at a local golf course. He said after he graduated he weighed his options, and couldn’t think of a better area school to be a teacher in than Walker Valley.

“I’ve done tours in schools and I substituted before I started here, and Walker Valley is just a tremendous place to be. The kids are great, the teachers are great and the administration is possibly the most helpful I’ve ever met. They’re very understanding and will do whatever they can to ensure we are happy as teachers. They want us to be better,” he said.

Ferguson explained how the school feels like a family to him. While he says he had similar feelings when he was a student, he said it’s as if he remained in the family, but changed roles. He describes his return as a seamless transition in which he doesn’t feel out of place in the least.

“I can go into the teachers’ lounge without feeling awkward, and without feeling out of place!” he said with a laugh.

Comparing Illinois and Tennessee, Ferguson said Tennessee has incomparable views, specifically listing its mountainous natural beauty. Illinois, on the other hand, has longer views in one direction due to its flatter land. While he enjoys snow, Ferguson prefers Tennessee’s brief bouts of winter, compared to the blizzards Illinois often sees.

When not teaching the next generation of scientists, Ferguson loves spending time with his girlfriend, family and friends; hiking; watching movies; and camping.

“If you want to go into science, it’s hard, but don’t give up. It’s well worth it,” he said. “You have to really love what you do to teach. You have to love kids and love helping them.”

While many young graduates simply want to get out of their hometowns and go to a larger city, Ferguson doesn’t believe larger cities are as great as they are made out to be. He describes home as not a place, but a feeling, and says Cleveland feels like home. It looks like Spencer Ferguson has found his home. 


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