High school teachers aren’t supposed to be cool, right? Wrong. Adam Newburger, a geometry teacher and baseball coach at McLean High School, aims to connect with his students. Newburger, 24, grew up in Potomac, attended the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School and graduated from Churchill High School. He belongs to Congregation Har Shalom.
What made you want to become a teacher?
My junior year of high school, I ended up having three social studies teachers who were all guys in their 20s. I had never had teachers who I could see myself in. It was a really positive experience. When I looked at them, I thought, that’s something I could do, because it made me enjoy my classes again. I went to University of Mary Washington partly because of their great education program, so I did four years undergrad to get my math degree and one more year as part of a five-year master’s.
What’s your favorite part about teaching?
I really love meeting new people and connecting with them and helping them to achieve their goals. I spend a lot of time with my students, asking them what they’re doing and we end up talking a lot about sports. As one of the baseball coaches, that’s fun for me. It’s been fun to hear so many different stories, all the gossip in the school and what people are working on.
How does being a baseball coach and teacher work together?
I get to see a lot of the students outside of school and they are a little more relaxed because they see me at the games and practices. What’s nice is I can understand their motivations for doing sports because I played baseball in high school. As long as they’re willing to put in the time, I’m willing to change my schedule to help them. That flexibility and that they see me outside of the classroom helps with the flow that we have in class.
Do you see a strong Jewish population at McLean?
In Fairfax County there’s a decent-size population, and pretty recently I became the Jewish Student Association sponsor at McLean High School. I think that the community is there, but it needs some reinvigoration. There hasn’t been a consistent active place for Jewish students to go to hang out or be with other Jewish students. I’m really happy that I can provide a space where that can happen. When I got to the school, the club was actually listed as inactive, but we’ve had some meetings with increasing numbers, so that’s exciting.
What was surprising about the job?
It’s been really nice having a good group of teachers that really want me to do well in my first year there. As compared to when I was student teaching in Spotsylvania County [Virginia] as part of my master’s degree, my mentor-teacher would eat lunch in their room every day. I thought that was what you were supposed to do as a teacher. So when I got to McLean and everyone was like, “Oh we’re all going to eat lunch in the math department,” I was surprised. It’s been nice having that sense of community.
Do you think your age has an effect on your teaching?
I think that, being a younger teacher, I can relate to the students more because I’ve just gone through all of this. I went straight from high school to college to my grad year without any breaks, so I’ve been doing school consistently forever. I can understand how things are right now — I just finished classes online. The amount of time my students were online, I was online for the same amount of time. I have a unique position where I really can understand where they’re coming from and I can be very honest with them. I really don’t like homework and didn’t enjoy doing it when I was in school, so I avoid giving it when I can. I tell the students that if they show up ready to give 100 percent and we can get through all the material, then they can go home and just recharge. I also understand that things happen and life happens and as long as they communicate with me and are willing to talk with me, I’m willing to work with them.
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