Teachers are Heroes: Gary Tyson believes 'everything is a teachable moment'
Published on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021
BCSD photo / Monica Kreber : Gary Tyson all dressed up for "Dress like a Cowboy/girl" Day at DIS.
When Gary Tyson’s family was considering a move to Daniel Island from the Philadelphia area a few years ago, he had done a lot of research on Daniel Island School, and very badly wanted to join the teaching staff.
He and his wife had always wanted to live in the south, and they looked into different cities in the area before falling in love with Daniel Island; Tyson subsequently fell in love with the school, providing a laundry list of reasons of what he liked about it during his job interview, when he told administrators that he “really badly” wanted a teaching position.
“It’s the community, it’s seeing the kids out, it’s the trust they put in their teachers here,” he said.
His family made the move, and Tyson has now in his fourth year at Daniel Island School, where he teaches sixth-grade history.
Tyson attributes his decision to pursue teaching to some of the teachers he had in grade school. He described those teachers as being dedicated educators who took were invested in their students and liked to make learning fun.
“Seeing what it was like to be in those classes, versus some of the other classes, just stood out to me,” he said, adding, “It didn’t seem like work to them – they seemed like they were just in there, helping kids grow at such an important age.”
Tyson is originally from Pennsylvania, and he actually went to college as a math major, saying history was his “love” but math was his strong suit. He eventually realized that while he was great at math, it did not necessarily mean he had to follow a career in that field (which is why he tells his students now: “Figure out what you love to do.”).
Tyson ended up transferring to a small teaching school called East Stroudsburg University and received his certification in elementary education. He also has a Master’s Degree in administration through Gwynedd Mercy University.
Tyson has taught a total of 26 years – he started off teaching fifth grade for 15 years and then did six years teaching second grade.
When he came to Daniel Island School he spent his first year teaching fifth grade. He really loves history, so when a teaching position for sixth-grade history teacher opened up at the school, he took it.
Tyson is the grade level chair for sixth grade and is also involved with a local chapter for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Outside of school, Tyson enjoys spending time with his family; one is in the Marines, one is attending law school at the College of Charleston, and the third is an eighth-grader at Daniel Island School.
Tyson is fueled by hearing how much his students enjoy his class.
“The more I hear how excited they are to come to my class…that’s energy to me,” he said, adding, “When I hear stuff like that, it just kind of feeds the machine.”
Tyson’s teaching method is to help his students make personal connections with their learning. His students recently worked on projects that involved creating their own civilizations, and how everyone should treat each other in the civilizations.
Tyson had important discussion with his students when a child led the school in the Pledge of Allegiance one morning and accidentally dropped the script. Tyson’s recalled some students laughed when this happened, so he told them there are three types of people who react when someone finds themself in such a situation: the person who laughs, the person who does nothing, and the person who seeks out how to make a difficult situation better. “Which person are you going to be?” he asked his students.
When he hears from former students he taught up north, he is often told that he was the type of teacher who gave life lessons to his students.
“I try to keep that in mind,” he said, adding, “Everything is a teachable moment.”
He always encourages his students, when they are trying to make decisions: “Which decision is going to let you sleep peacefully, and which one is going cause you that stomach churning? Go with the one that helps you sleep peacefully.”
Tyson is a big believer in helping create well-rounded individuals at Daniel Island School.
“You can never go wrong with having the child’s best interest at heart,” he said.
His favorite thing about Daniel Island School is “literally…every single thing about it”; Tyson said he loves the relationships he has formed and the fact that he gets to see his students and their families all the time out and about on the island.
A big compliment he gets from parents is: “My child has never loved history before (you).”
“It get to see, hands on, the impact I’m making,” he said. “It’s that community feel…I really feel like it’s a family here.”