PHOTO CAPTION: Even when not with students, Mr. Messina can often be found hard at work in his lab in the Media Center. (Photo by Abby Hurley)

By Abby Hurley

MR. MESSINA, A DIGITAL LEARNING TEACHER, TRIES TO EMBRACE THE BEST ADVICE HE EVER RECEIVED…BY DOING WHATEVER HE DOES THE BEST HE CAN.

What prompted you to become a business/ web design teacher to begin with?

To be honest I was looking to teach social studies and history, but I have an extensive background in business and web design. Something opened up in Medford High School teaching technology, and I went for it, and I landed it. I didn’t go for technology because there’s not as many teaching jobs, but there’s more social studies jobs.

But you’ve always wanted to be a teacher in a sense?

I would say I’ve always been teaching. I’ve always been working with young people and have been teaching in some way, not necessarily in a classroom. I thought about teaching. I can’t say I’ve always wanted to be a teacher to be honest. I am glad I am a teacher now though.

What did you want to do instead of teaching?

I always wanted to have my own business and, to be honest with you my problem, well… It’s funny I teach students to have clear objectives and go for their goals, and maybe part of that drive is that I didn’t do that for myself. I was motivated. I was just not too focused on one thing. I was totally motivated and hardworking, always have been, but I would do something for a while and then switch to something else. Got kind of bored.

Did you choose Andover High because it had a job open or did part of you want to be here?

I was at Medford High School, and we were moving to Andover, and I got a call as I was renovating my house to come interview here. So Andover kind of chose me and I was like, “Yay” because it’s a great place and it’s right down the street. I feel like I’m really helping to build a better community not just for the students here but for myself because I live here with my kids.

What’s something you wish you could change about Andover? Whether it’s about the town, the school, anything.

I guess I wish we were a little bit closer together. Andover’s really spread out and when we all come together here, in school, and in my neighborhood, there’s a positive vibe. There’s a lot we could accomplish as a community if we all came together. It’s very easy to be isolated with our technology, so I wish we could be together more as a community but I know it could be hard. I wish we could focus on more community-wide things and big events together, like for example, I’d love to do an all-day service day and all go throughout the town and help fix things. Eventually we could expand it to other places, but we should definitely start here.

Yeah, we’re one of the only schools that don’t require community service to graduate, which is kind of weird.

Yeah, that would be something I’d definitely change. Community service is so important. My whole life and career is more about service than anything else. I was in the military, I worked for the city for many years, and I feel like I’m doing service here. I know I’m getting paid, but I’m doing service here too.

So you teach technology, but you’re not a fan of how technology divides us?

Yes. Not at all. It’s something that’s challenging for me because I grew up in this time where all this technology started to change. I’ve had a front row seat to it, but I also understand the old way. You know going outside and kicking the can, hanging out with people. But I also understand staying inside and playing video games. That is my generation. I understand when beepers came out, which we don’t even use anymore, phones, I saw all this technology and how it’s changed people. This includes me and my own behavior, but I know what it’s like to be without it. So yeah, I wish we weren’t all so invested in it, but, like I tell my students, it’s not just them, it’s everybody. So students, don’t feel like, “It’s just all you kids!” because that’s a load of crap. It’s everybody, it’s adults too. It’s definitely infected our society.

Yeah, I don’t think adults like it, but they’re still apart of it.

Yeah, definitely. My wife talks about how she goes to meetings and people are just sitting on their phones. So it happens everywhere and, of course, you see a prevalence of like… there are some moments where I feel like everyone has some form of ADHD because we’re so bombarded with media every day that we’re not stimulated unless we’re being entertained. It’s not just media, it’s cultural things, like if I had to say something about kids in our day it’s the need to constantly be entertained. That’s the big difference, not the technology per say. Oh our parents used to say, “Why are you sitting around watching TV?” We’re replaying that. We didn’t have to be entertained all the time though; we’d make our own entertainment.

Yeah, I know lots of kids who need to have their phone in their pocket or on their desk even if they’re not using it because they don’t feel comfortable without it. It’s kind of weird.

Yeah, it’s making something out of nothing. The idea of sending my son off to camp for five days for fifth grade is the greatest idea. Go out to a camp and just hang out and talk. Get real, be real, be human for three days. Connect with someone. It’s already hard enough in high school to connect with people, I think, and I totally don’t blame anyone if they’re guarded against that, but if you add the technology in there and how we’re all separated physically in the suburban community, it challenges us even more. I don’t hold it against anyone because it’s really difficult for you guys to make those connections.

Technology is definitely a major part of our lives, which has its benefits and downfalls. Lastly, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

The best advice I’ve ever been given? “Whatever you do in your life, do it well.” I’ve done a lot of things and I used to have this friend who was in his 60s when I was in my 20s and at the time I was a restaurant manager. He said, “‘Michael, you have a lot of talents and you could have a lot of different jobs and all I can say to you is whatever you do, do it well.” And that’s always stayed with me. Sometimes you can be in a position where you feel you don’t belong and that you should be doing something else, and I’m totally guilty of that, but I can see now that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Yeah, you need to do the best in the situation you’re given to make it worth it.

Some people need to be in difficult situations to become the person they’re supposed to be.

If there were no bad times we would have no good times. It’s a balance we all need.

Exactly because at the end of the day, it’s you who is going to live your life.