Sean McComb '13
Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts
Sean McComb, a 2013 graduate of Goucher College’s Professional Development Certificate program, has been incredible gracious about being named the 2014 National Teacher of the Year, a top honor for educators. He first points out that the recognition has been a “wonderful chance to give my family some opportunities we wouldn’t have had before.” He adds, “Of course meeting the president was also wonderful.”
McComb, 30, teaches English at Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts, one of Goucher’s professional development schools. He has shared credit with his students, who he now calls the “National Students of the Year,” and with colleagues at his Baltimore County School.
He says, “We, the teachers, are just stewards of this great school we have here, and I’m happy to be a part of it for the last eight years. It’s been really nice to be able to bring this kind of joy and pride to the community, to the people who’ve been part of my story, and to my family.”
McComb became a teacher because of difficult life experiences that shaped his high school years. “My family was going through a difficult time. My mom was losing a battle with alcoholism. My father was out of work. I was really in a desperate place,” he says.
But he was fortunate enough to have a couple of teachers who made a concerted effort to help him, academically and personally. “They helped me to believe in myself when I wasn’t doing so on my own, and they helped me see great possibilities for myself and to aspire to reach them,” he says. “So when I left high school and went away to college, I thought about the work they did in my life and how they changed my life, and I thought I needed to pay that forward.”
A native of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, McComb came to Baltimore County Public Schools in 2006. In addition to serving in his current role as an English teacher, in 2007, he became the school’s coordinator of the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, which teaches middle-of-the-road students study skills that enable them to take Advanced Placement and other upper-level classes in high school to prepare them for college.
He also serves as a staff development teacher at Patapsco, where he helps to coordinate professional training activities and nurture teacher growth. He has also served as a curriculum writer for the Baltimore County school system and coached tennis and track at his school.
To continue to improve his efficacy in the classroom and in his school system, McComb attended Goucher as part of the certificate program in school improvement leadership. He says that experience and coursework really helped him think more systemically about schools and about how the choices teachers make can affect the classroom. “It’s really helped broaden my perspective,” he says.
One of the things McComb says he particularly liked about the program at Goucher was that his professors were also practicing educators. He says, “It was really helpful to get their practical advice, along with the theoretical coursework we were working on. I thought that combination was specifically very helpful, as was the personal attention, small class sizes, and really accessible college community and professors.”
As National Teacher of the Year, McComb will take a leave from teaching and will spend next year travelling the nation and the world representing and advocating for and public school teachers at more than 150 events.
For his “stump speech,” he says, “I think that my message has really been about the teacher’s role in transforming students’ lives and how, sometimes to do this, we have to transform our practice. We have to be really smart about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We need to approach teaching with that mentality of ‘I can change lives, if I do this job really well.”
McComb and his wife, Sarah, who also teaches at Patapsco High School, live in Joppa, Maryland, and celebrated the birth of their first child, Silas, in March 2014.