Mr. Charles Youngs' Story: From a Family of Teachers to a Community of Learners
"What I enjoy most about teaching English is helping students define their world through texts--classic, salient, contemporary, relevant--and through their own compositions." says Charles Youngs, English Language Arts teacher at Bethel Park High School, PA.
"I see everything from the perspective of 'story,' he adds. "Whether it's literature, history, politics, family, song, sport or the latest gossip--all is 'story.' Stories we are told, stories we tell, and stories that tell us.
"Indeed, if I can help our students read stories of the past, add their own stories of the present, and then see how they belong together, in context, if you will, then, along with my colleagues, I am essentially preparing them to be literate, accomplished individuals now and in their futures."
On his desk, Mr Youngs has a 1937 photograph of a teacher and her first one room schoolhouse class. The teacher in the picture is his mother. "Much has changed from those days--And yet, it hasn't.
"In a way, I grew up in a faculty room--eleven of his immediate family members are teachers--with realistic expectations about teaching." He reflects, "I get inspiration from considering my family's tradition in education. I'm glad to be part of it. I guess that's part my story."
"I come from a family of teachers," says Mr Youngs. My mother was a teacher. All her sisters taught, all my sisters taught, and their husbands taught. And now, four of their children teach, as well. Currently, there are eleven of us still teaching. "I grew up in a faculty room, and of course everybody told me 'don't go into teaching.'" And so, he didn't, not at first anyway."
Mr Youngs, who teaches in the English Language Arts department at Bethel Park High School, received his teaching certification in English and Communications upon graduation from Grove City College in 1985. Even though, at that time, he was named the college's "Student Teacher of the Year," he took a detour from the classroom.
In the summer of 1985, he was lured into the fast-paced world of advertising and public relations. Working his way up from a copywriter to vice president of advertising for a leading Pittsburgh agency in a space of five years, during which he had a stint as public relations director for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, he proved--perhaps to his family, perhaps to himself--he could do something besides teach. He also learned that as exciting as the advertising field is, it was not as dynamic as the educational arena.
In 1991, Mr Youngs brought his background in commercial communications back to the classroom and took a position at Grove City High School, PA. He looks back on this early career seasoning as something that lends credibility to his practice. "I know what business expects of graduates and can speak to that a point of authentic reference."
During his tenure with Grove City School District, he enjoyed working on his Master of Arts degree at New York University and Oxford University. While studying in England for two terms under the Oxford-style tutorial system, his pedagogy was personally directed by such educational experts as James Britton (Language and Learning), Nancy Martin (Mostly About Writing), Margaret Meek (On Being Literate), and Cecily O'Neill (Drama Worlds).
Mr Youngs at Oxford, 1995
"Being in the company of these folks--who are 'living footnotes' of virtually every important book on English education--had a profound effect on my teaching," according to Mr Youngs.
Building upon his experience and research, he likens his teaching to creating a 'community of learners. At times, he invites his students to participate in his own research as he explores the use of reader-writer-response techniques and process drama strategies in the study of literature." This research has earned him respect from his colleagues and professors alike, while stimulating his student's minds.
Always searching for more authentic learning activities and assessment, he tries alternative methods to complement conventional. He regularly shares his ideas in seminars at his undergraduate alma mater and other workshops.
After receiving his MA in 1995, Mr Youngs returned to Pittsburgh and joined the English department of Bethel Park High School. At Bethel Park he has gained praise for his work on interdisciplinary teaching projects, such as "Colonial Day," a day-long event of English and Social Studies focus on early American culture. "It's a challenge to create community with a grade level that consists of 500 students! But I believe that because of the size of BPHS and the segmentation that comes of everything from our campus-style facility to the general alienation of contemporary 'suburbia' that building such experiences that engender community among our students--and parents and community members--are all the more important as ever."
Mr Youngs' professional memberships include the National Council of Teachers of English, Carnegie Museum of Art, Prentice-Hall Literature, BOSSAC, and Pennsylvania Drama Education Exchange. His interests include writing, watercolor painting, British culture, and travel.
Washington Square, New York University
In 1999, Mr Youngs was a presenter at the annual convention of the National Council Teachers of English in Denver, Colorado. Also in that year, he founded the Pennsylvania Drama Education Exchange, a conference on process drama as a teaching strategy.
In 2001, Mr Youngs' was appointed BPHS English Language Arts Facilitator (Department Head).
He presented again to the NCTE in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2015.
In 2006, he traveled to Turkey on an educational dialogue trip sponsored by Turkish Cultural Center Pittsburgh. Highlights of the trip included visiting the Temple of Artemis and the Last House of the Virgin Mary, both near Ephesus, and the museum of Mevlana Rumi, the Persian mystic poet in Konya.
In 2008, Mr. Youngs became a National Board Certified Teacher.
In 2009, he was awarded a Fulbright-Hays Abroad Program Scholarship and traveled to Ghana to study West African culture as it relates to literature. He met with distinguished scholars, poets, and artists as well as visited several schools.
Mr. Youngs was named a Finalist for the 2009 National State Teachers of the Year from Pennsylvania.
In the 2015-16 school year, Mr Youngs' teaching assignments are AP English Literature and Co-Director of the Writing Center. Part of his day is spent as Intructional Teachnology Coach for students and faculty. In addition, he continues as the department facilitator for English Language Arts 9-12 and serves on various building and district curriculum committees.