Teacher Feature: Mr. McDermott


Thomas Reed, Contributing Writer

Picture a classroom – a classroom with an assortment of props strewn about, such as a giant pencil and a chandelier. The books are placed in a way where some are neatly arranged, while others appear disheveled. On the whiteboard are several words not commonly used in conversation – flange, existential – as well as a few math equations written in the corner as well as the to-do list for the afterschool group “Peer Outreach.”  As the teacher explains the assignment to the class, he does it in a passionate and slightly comedic manner. He radiates enthusiasm in a way that not many teachers do. Most importantly, he goes above and beyond with his teaching, challenging and encouraging his students to be the best writer and speaker that they can be.

That teacher is none other than Mr. McDermott.

Mr. McDermott is one of the eighteen teachers at Goffstown High that specialize in English. He started teaching at GHS in 2008, having taught English at the junior and senior levels – from open classes to more demanding AP classes. Prior to his nine years as an English teacher, McDermott worked at Habitat for Humanity through a government-funded public service program called Americorps.

In his year as a Vista member specializing in fundraising, McDermott had a lot of unique experiences – such as working with individuals who expressed interest in contributing funds and working with kids to create a youth habitat program. “I don’t know if I was inspired to be an English teacher, but I had an English degree, I liked working with kids,” says Mr. McDermott. “I guess my Americorps experience was the closest thing to inspiration. It was something that felt rewarding.”

Prior to his experience at Americorps, Mr. McDermott lived in Nebraska, where he was born and raised. He reflects that Nebraska is a beautiful, largely agricultural state with very kind people, a slower pace, fewer trees, and many bluffs. In his childhood, Mr. McDermott played video games and watched movies for entertainment, still having a fondness for both of them in the present day. FPSes are his favorite video game genre, whereas role-playing games (mostly expansive, open-world sandbox types) are his least favorite. He does not watch television, but has on occasion watched shows such as Game of Thrones and Arrested Development on Netflix.

Mr. McDermott went to college at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. He described the university as a huge state college with lots of international students. “It was a really great experience, I had wonderful teachers; I feel like I got a lot of different perspectives,” McDermott stated. “[It’s] probably the opposite of what most people think when they think of going to school in Nebraska.” Mr. McDermott’s time in college, according to him, was a really good time in his life.

Not surprisingly, Mr. McDermott is not a huge fan of classes in which he describes as, “Those classes in which I sat down and knew that the teacher wasn’t there to teach the class. Those were pretty painful.” Mr. McDermott had a government class in which his teacher acted more like a coach who taught the class without enthusiasm. “…Like it was something extra to get out the way,” Mr. McDermott added. “[It] had the potential to be a really powerful class at that point in my life, but it was just a ‘memorize this part of the Preamble in the Constitution’.”

On the other hand, the subjects that Mr. McDermott enjoys the most are not only English, but also Mathematics. He enjoys teaching logic, believing that it is nice to have something that approximates a finite universe. “There are rules, and you follow them and you arrive at an answer, and it’s a verifiably right answer, and that’s a beautiful thing,” McDermott says. If he didn’t teach English, Mr. McDermott says that he would likely teach Algebra, also stating that he had substituted for an algebra teacher at GHS. When asked for what grade he prefers to teach, Mr. McDermott replied saying how he thinks the grouping of students based on age rather than interest and ability is weird, and that he prefers teaching young people who express interest.


When asked about his favorites – favorite colors, books, songs, etcetera, Mr. McDermott gave some rather interesting answers. “[My favorite color switches] back and forth, between green and blue. I think you gotta pick,” Mr. Dermott replied, in response to what his favorite color was. “Right now I think I’m heading towards blue – not like a depressing blue – a sky blue, but a summer sky blue with no clouds. In springtime, I’ll probably switch back to green.” His favorite foods are lasagna and an Indian dish consisting of spinach and cheese called saag paneer, whereas his favorite book was 1984 during high school, and is now currently Grapes of Wrath.

Out of his nine years teaching at GHS, one experience teaching an English class at the GAP program was noted by Mr. McDermott as his craziest experience. “I had two students get in a fight at an English GAP class that I was teaching and I just thought [that]… the leadup to [the fight] – they wanted to do it,” explained McDermott. “They wanted that experience… like, they were goading each other to that experience.” According to Mr. McDermott, the two students were badly wanting to fight and were looking for a reason to do so, being expelled from the program after the incident occurred.

Many students look up to Mr. McDermott, but who does Mr. McDermott look up to? Mr. McDermott says that although he has had many great bosses, he looked up to the boss he had at Habitat for Humanity a lot. McDermott’s boss had differing political views than him, yet he was not judgmental of other’s views. “His big thing was ‘seek understanding’, which I really appreciated… to try and understand somebody else before you just went forward with your agenda.”