Ever wonder what teachers do outside of school? What they do when they are not grading papers or coming up with class plans? Mr. McCarthy, a teacher of 20th Century History and AP European History at Andover High School, is more than just a social studies teacher and, like everyone else, he has a story that is worth knowing.

Mr. McCarthy
Mr. McCarthy

Born in Boston in 1976, Mr. McCarthy grew up with his parents, older sister, and younger brother. McCarthy said that he grew up in a safe and secure environment. He describes his childhood as “uneventful in a very good way. Very stable family; very child centered; very typical suburban.” His typical suburban family parallels with the typical career interests of young children.

When kids are little, some want to be superheroes or police officers while others may want to be a princess or ballerina. McCarthy wanted to be a cop, then a priest, and then a fighter pilot. Throughout most of high school and into most of college, McCarthy was planning to be a lawyer. It was not until his senior year of college when he realized that he wanted to be a teacher.

“I really got into high school and education in general when I had a really good professor who really convinced me that I should be thinking more about high school teaching rather than being a lawyer. And that very much steered me in this direction.”

McCarthy attended Skidmore College for undergraduate school and majored in history. “A lot of lawyers are also history majors or government majors so that was my intent going into school. I was convinced I was going to be a lawyer.” While teaching full time at Andover High School, McCarthy attended UMass Boston part-time for graduate school and earned a degree in education.

When asked what he loves about teaching, McCarthy said, “I love the emphasis as a social studies teacher in developing and emphasizing critical thinking skills about developing a strong opinion on something and then being able to substantiate it, to support it.” He plays the role of being neutral and almost never tells his students his opinions.

McCarthy’s class is very much discussion based, where his students have a chance to voice their opinions and hear others’ points of view and then discuss. He tosses a ball to call upon students who want to answer a question or add a comment. He uses this method to ensure that everyone is being heard.

When asked about McCarthy’s teaching style, Jianna Christopher, senior, said, “He tries to come up with ways to get us engaged in the work we’re learning instead of just lecturing us.” She adds that he is very fair in assigning work.

When he is not teaching, Mr. McCarthy is a huge lover of travel. Before the birth of his children, he used to go away for the entire summer to travel the world, particularly the developing world.

“I even spent my honeymoon in the countries of Cambodia and Laos,” said McCarthy.

India and Italy are his favorite places he has visited. When recounting India, he describes the experience as a “sensory overload,” for everything was more intense there such as “the sights, the smells, the people, the heat, the climate, everything.”

“Adjusting one’s life, one’s perception was a really nice experience for me,” said McCarthy.

People are always told that there is no such thing as perfection, but this does not stop Mr. McCarthy from calling Italy perfect and the quality of life fantastic. “They really perfected the art of making everything great.” He says their food is amazing and applauds them for being very family centered.

“It was just a very relaxing [place], everything was perfect there.”

His love of Italy’s cuisine transfers into his own love of cooking. His passion started when he graduated from college and had his own kitchen. He had to start cooking because take-out became too expensive. He enjoys cooking Italian, French, and American fusion cuisine.

McCarthy is also an avid runner and said, “The endorphin high can’t be beat and I am a much calmer person after I exercise.”

McCarthy’s interests are similar to other people’s, which shows that he is just a normal person and he too has weaknesses. “I am notoriously bad at paper work and I am not exactly quick in returning student research papers or essays,” McCarthy said. Just as he has weaknesses, he also has regrets, but he would not change them, believing that his most difficult experiences were his best learning experiences and were the ones that helped him grow as a person.

While McCarthy is humble about his strengths, saying he is not really sure what his strengths are, his students say differently.

“He’s very understanding when someone is having trouble,” said Christopher.

Kyle Kelloway, a senior, agrees, adding that Mr. McCarthy is “very down to earth.”

Angie Lionetta, senior, said he makes himself available after school. “He also pushes and challenges his kids at all levels,” she added. “He personally gets to know you, like your family and your situation.”

When asked what advice he has for high school students, McCarthy said, “I would tell students to be present and that means mentally and physically. Don’t try to multi-task. When you’re in class, be in class. When you’re out playing sports, play sports. When you’re having dinner with your family, have dinner with your family.”

Though he did not start off as wanting to be a teacher, Mr. McCarthy said, “It’s an honor to teach. I love teaching especially when students make good choices. It can be challenging but rewarding when students make poor choices.”

His students are happy that he chose teaching, with Kelloway saying, “He’s awesome. He’s one of my favorite teachers ever.”

By Lauren Wiener