Miles Macleod was not always on a path to become an educator. He entered high school with nine offenses on his juvenile record – crimes including theft, trespassing and breaking and entering, he said.
“If you told my middle school teachers I was a teacher now, they would have a heart attack,” Macleod said.
Coaches and teachers helped Macleod get back on course, and he now works to inspire students as a mentor and English teacher at Heritage High School in Wake Forest. On Wednesday, his efforts were recognized when he was named the Wake County school system’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.
During the six years he has spent at Heritage, Macleod, 34, of Wake Forest became chairman of the school’s English department, wrote a curriculum for a class on global issues and helped guide a student-managed service learning nonprofit.
Faculty and students surprised Macleod on Thursday morning, filling his classroom with balloons. Macleod said he was honored but was also humbled knowing all nominated teachers were deserving of the award.
“I’m just happy that I’m considered a good teacher,” he said.
Macleod is more than good, said Heritage principal Mark Savage.
“He’s an exceptionally creative, tireless teacher,” Savage said. “I’ve never seen anyone do what he does.”
Mcleod attended Salisbury University in Maryland, where he played basketball. He planned to major in finance but decided to switch to English education after he took a course in rhetoric and someone stole his calculus book.
After graduation, he taught English in South Korea and Ghana. During his time in Africa, Macleod started a nonprofit that helped build schools there.
The nonprofit grew into Project Wisdom, an international service learning program, at Heritage.
Students meet after school to work on service projects to help groups around the world, and they go on a trip to Ghana every two years. This year’s trip included tours of Ghana’s diverse history and landscape.
A second Project Wisdom chapter began this spring at Rolesville High School, Macleod said.
To accompany the nonprofit, Macleod developed a class curriculum to teach about global issues, including child slavery, and encourage students to create projects to address the issues.
“These kids are brilliant, right, smarter than me,” he said. “I just give them a platform.”
‘I was that student’
Macleod’s first class of the day is remedial English. Of the 25 students, 14 are from other countries. The class is part of a two-year series that aims to help students catch up on English skills.
Memunatu Conteh, 16, moved from Sierra Leone in Africa and enrolled at Heritage this school year. Her native language, Krio, is a mix of English and several other languages, and she said Macleod has helped her stay motivated.
“We do new things every day,” she said.
Macleod said he didn’t always love the subject he now teaches. As a high school student, he hardly ever picked up a book.
“I know why students hate English,” he said. “I was that student.”
In 2010, Mcleod and his wife, Erin, and their two daughters moved to the Triangle from South Korea so Erin could pursue a master’s degree in counseling from N.C. State University.
Now, Erin Macleod works as the freshmen counselor at Heritage. Her office is about 40 feet from her husband’s classroom.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi
Born: April 22, 1982
Family: Wife, Erin; two daughters, Brooklynn, 7, and Olive, 6
Education: Pursuing a master’s degree in 21st century teaching and learning from Wilkes University; bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education from Salisbury University
Hobbies: Boston sports, writing curriculum, spending time with his family