10 Questions with…English Teacher Mr. Mayo


Trinity Drew

Mr. Mayo is always a friendly presence in the English hall.

Trinity Drew, Staff Writer

Mr. Mayo teaches senior English, holds down AP Literature, and is the English Department Head. Mr. Mayo came to the district in 2001 and to WHS in 2005. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to build our academics and improve our overall experience at Woodhaven High School. Mr. Mayo works to make positive changes to the school environment by connecting with students and instilling a lifelong love of learning. Trinity Drew interviews Mr. Mayo on the remarkable impression he has made on the Woodhaven High School community. 

What is your main goal as a teacher and for students?

My goal for students is to view the world critically. If you can examine and question how things work, I think you’re better able to deal with those things. You’re more likely to lead a meaningful life.

What made you realize you wanted to become a teacher?

I grew up in Plymouth seeing a lot of men around me as Engineers and I was pretty good at math and science. So I just thought that’s what I should also do. After graduation, I continued a 6-week internship at Ford where I made computer models of transmission components while also attending Michigan Tech. In this career venture, I felt no spark or desire to continue this for the rest of his life. I then thought back to my senior year of high school. I’d been a student aide in the math lab and realized helping people understand was something I loved. Soon enough after I withdrew from Michigan Tech and started my journey at Albion College to become an English teacher. 

What do you think makes you a strong department head?

I’m open-minded and believe in my colleagues. I see the job as a way to support the department and enable people to do their best. I’m reliable. If I say I’ll do something, I do it. I’ll usually drop what I’m doing to help someone else. 

What made you want to become the English Department Head? 

This is my 22nd year teaching as a whole. There are things I do differently. I see kids differently now, so I am the teacher I am because I understand my students more. I started in 2005 at WHS, but I started in the district in 2001—Mr. C’s first year is my first year. What motivated me most to apply for department head was a former teacher, John Webster who taught at Woodhaven High School for several years and then died of cancer. He taught next to me for years. Before he died he told me I should be the department head after Mr. Skillman retired. That comment from an older teacher that I respected meant a lot and encouraged me to go through with applying for this position. 

What are your biggest priorities as a teacher?

Usually, it’s being prepared for the next class. After that, it’s grading. After that, it’s structural and philosophical issues. For example, how do we get students to act with integrity? How do we tap into internal motivation? Can I make school less transactional, and if so, what does it become? 

What is most challenging about teaching some days?

It can be frustrating sometimes seeing how education has changed over the past couple of years kids’ main goal is more like racking up points as if it is a video game to pass a class rather than really trying to really absorb the education. 

In your opinion, what is the best part about teaching?

The best part of teaching is when students recognize how they’ve grown. I love observing, as the year goes on, students feel more confident about what they know and can do.

Do you feel like you’ve made an impact on kids directly? Is there anyone who let you know you’ve made an impact on them?

Yes, the best thing is getting emails from prior students over spring break. One graduated in 2012 and went to NYU and now lives in Korea and is an educational consultant. Another one graduated in 2018 and is graduating from Eastern to become a nurse, and they both thanked me years later for the amazing class atmosphere and the unforgettable knowledge that they obtained from class. I value the fact that people think about class 10 years later, which lets me know that I have left an impact on students. Emails like these help keep me motivated when I’m feeling burned out dealing with the weight of being a teacher.

What change do you feel that you make to public education?

When becoming department head, as soon as I could, I drove to lead change in education. It was very important to have literature to better represent students of color and women. That has had a positive impact on students feeling more represented and more engaged. 

How else are you involved in the Woodhaven school community?

I am part of many school committees. The District School Improvement Team seeks to develop goals to better the school within the district. I’m also part of the Curriculum Study Council, which studies and improves new curriculum for K-12. As department head, I coordinate inventory, order new books, and make sure students have materials. Not to mention I am certified in CPR.

You are so involved in your work here. Outside of work, what are your hobbies?

Is running a hobby? It’s probably the activity I do most, outside of daily life stuff. I enjoy woodworking as well, though I don’t get nearly the time I’d like to build things.