Before the Books: Did Teachers Always Teach?

Mr. Barry is a science teacher at Athens Drive Magnet High School. He used to be a field engineer for Hensel-Phelps.

Photos by Evan Pike

Mr. Barry is a science teacher at Athens Drive Magnet High School. He used to be a field engineer for Hensel-Phelps.

For many students at Athens Drive Magnet High School and elsewhere, the stress of school and everything else the life of a student entails can be taxing. As a result, the farthest thing from their minds is their teachers’ lives prior to becoming a teacher. Some students might even assume that their teachers’ lives are teaching– but these students are sorely mistaken.

Many teachers at ADMHS have worked unique jobs prior to education, and though their important work continues today, their experiences before becoming educators are significant as well.

Before he became a science teacher, Shane Barry was a field engineer for the construction contracting company Hensel Phelps.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a ton of similarities between a construction site in Washington D.C and Athens Drive High School here in Raleigh,” said Barry.

As a field engineer, Barry was tasked with rebuilding portions of the Pentagon, and also managed an entire crew of other engineers. His most notable achievement while working as a field engineer was designing the Pentagon’s briefing room.

“That’s where they’ll talk to the press and stuff. I was charged with that room and I was the one who— for the company Hensel Phelps— I’m the one who built that,” said Barry.

Barry isn’t the only teacher at ADMHS that has achieved remarkable things in fields other than education. Lori Lair, a CTE teacher at ADMHS and coordinator of ATV, worked in television for 26 years prior to teaching.

“I started as a videographer/editor for the first 13 [years] and then moved to becoming the producer for 5 On Your Side, which is the Consumer Investigative unit, at WRAL in 1998,” said Lair.

As a videographer, Lair worked with reporters to find, write, and edit news stories. She rarely knew what she’d be working on day-to-day.

“I could do anything from a school board meeting to a hurricane to a feature story,” said Lair. “That was fun in the beginning, but I got to the point where I wanted a little more structure, so when I had the opportunity to make a change, I did.”

Though Lair misses the people she worked with prior to becoming an educator, the pressure of deadlines and extensive fact-checking is no longer an issue for her.

Ms. Lair is a CTE teacher at Athens Drive Magnet High School. She used to be a producer for WRAL News.

“Teaching has different stressors, but for me, they’re not as bad. I’m still really happy I made the change,” said Lair.

Barry agrees.

“I enjoy a lot of things about my job. I really like the classes that I teach because they’re very unique, and we get to talk about topics at a level that I think is above a lot of the general level of classes in high school. I really like talking about some of those topics. I like feeling like what I’m doing here matters.”