Mr. Michael May has been a history teacher at Southmoreland for 12 years. But after school hours, he takes on a whole different role: rock musician.
Mr. May is a member in three different bands. He is the lead singer of “fAil,” a heavy rock band. He also plays bass and sings in the group “Me and My Neighbor,” which is an acoustic classic/90s rock band. The band Tool is a musical inspiration to Mr. May, and he plays bass in a Tool tribute band called “The Holy Gift.” Tool is a band that, Mr. May said, had a very large impact on him in his early music career.
Mr. May began playing music when he was 16 years old, and ironically, his love of wrestling that caused him to love music.
“Wrestling had a lot to do with it,” said Mr. May, who wrestled for the University of Pittsburgh. “Music was so big for me when I’d warm up and get myself pumped up for a match. The more I listened to music and the more I heard the songs’ messages, it started to mean more to me, and that’s when my love for music began to grow.”
Throughout participation in all of his bands, Mr. May usually covers many popular punk rock/heavy metal/alternative bands, but he has also released many original songs while juggling his sometimes stressful schedule.
Teaching, despite some beliefs, is not everything that meets the eye. Students see the large amounts of work and never ending exams that they have to do and take, but they never see the hours upon hours of lesson plans, checking tests, and perfecting exams that their teachers go through daily. Musicians are also incredibly dedicated individuals; they are always practicing music, performing gigs, and writing songs.
Mr. May believes that music, like education, is a way for a teacher to make an important impression on students.
“I feel that one of the means of humans is to leave something behind,” he said, “I feel that this is my one big contribution to society. It’s what makes it worthwhile to me, the students I do make an impact on, it’s a big deal to me.”
Mr. May knew that music was going to be a part of his life after his first band practice in his garage when he was in high school. Not only was music a source of joy in his life, Mr. May also sees music as a creative outlet and a good way to keep busy for him, and he has more than wrestling to credit for his interest in music.
Mr. May disclosed that he has had a love of Broadway musicals for his whole life, such as Annie, Little Shop of Horrors, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Rock of Ages. In addition to musicals, Mr. May listened to many bands as he was growing up, such as Tool, Led Zeppelin, and System of a Down. Idolizing Marilyn Manson, he learned many vocal techniques when he was first learning to sing.
Other than playing and listening to music, Mr. May enjoys working out, weightlifting, playing video games, and playing sports. In addition to being a teacher, Mr. May also worked for FedEx as a truck loader, Best Buy, and in the landscaping and telemarketing businesses. He went to Derry High School, where he met one of the biggest influences in his life was his history teacher, Mr. Reigntgen.
“I loved the way he taught,” Mr. May said. “His lectures were always funny and they kept you engaged. He was a big wrestling fan too-he gave me two of his old wrestling sweatshirts when he was in North Carolina. I really connected with him. He was the one that made me want to become a teacher.”
After graduating from Derry, Mr. May went to the University of Pittsburgh on a wrestling scholarship. He then transferred to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he got his Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Social Studies Education and met another major influence: one of his college professors, Soo Lou.
From there, he received his Master’s Degree in Education at Indiana Wesleyan University.
Mr. May remembers the anxiousness and nervousness of his first day of teaching at Southmoreland, but he remembers more about the first year than the first day. Mr. May came for the open job opportunity, and he obtained his teaching job partially through being a wrestling coach for the school. However, he was juggling teaching three different classes that he didn’t have any foundation for and coaching wrestling all at once.
“I was creating all of the classes from scratch while working with the wrestling team,” Mr. May said, “There were many nights that I got home at around 9 or 10 o’clock and then I still had work to do for school.”
It was a very rough year for him, but he obtained a very valuable mantra that he passes onto his students today: “Balance in life is huge.”
The years after became easier very quickly due to the fact that he had a solid foundation and only had to critique what he did in the year prior. Mr. May is now very happy with where he is today at the high school.
“I like everyone that I work with here: the staff is great, the kids are great, and I get along with all of the teachers. It’s also very relaxed here, I enjoy that I have the freedom to do what I want in my classroom,” Mr. May said.
Mr. May makes it a priority to ask feedback from his students at the end of the year.
“The only feedback I really get is from my students,” he said. “I always appreciate it when they tell me that they enjoyed the class or they learned something positive from me.”
It is no secret that Mr. May cares about his students and wishes to see them succeed.
“I teach to make the world a better place,” Mr. May said. “I want to find a way to leave a positive impact on the future of the world and the younger society, and this is it for me.”