Editor’s Note – Five longtime classroom and office educators will retire from Cardinal Gibbons at the end of this school year. We thank them for their dedication and the impact they have each made on the lives of our students and on the entire school community. We wish them the best as they start a new journey in their lives. For each of the next five days, we will post a story about one of our retiring educators. Our fifth, and final, story is about Math Educator Dr. John Sprague, who is retiring after 18 years of service.
“Satisfying,” Dr. John Sprague says without hesitation. That’s the word he picked to sum up his 9 squared + 3 cubed – 90 years as a Math Educator at Cardinal Gibbons.
It was 18 years ago that John traded teaching college students at NC State, where he earned his doctorate, for instructing high schoolers. “I finished my degree, worked a year as an adjunct and left for Gibbons,” John says, adding that he enjoyed teaching “motivated high school students over not-so-motivated college students.”
In truth, John’s move to Gibbons was a return to teaching high school math since he had worked at a religious school in the Triangle before pursuing his PhD. “I was used to teaching at a religious school,” he says. And Gibbons welcomed him with open arms.
Along with being an expert mathematician John is also a skilled musician. Seeing him play the bagpipes, oft times with his wife, Emily, is a common Gibbons sight. He plays at most school events, from pep rallies and St. Patrick’s Day luncheons to coffee house nights. For many, it just ISN’T a Gibbons event without John and his bagpipes. He is also a moderator of the school's Academic Team as well as a true cat lover, known for rescuing a stray or two and volunteering at cat shelters.
Asked if he would describe himself as a tough teacher, John bristles at the term, offering the word “fair” as a more accurate description. And he declares his classroom style downright old-fashioned, preferring lectures to computers. “My students seem to like it,” he says. To be sure, when John came to Gibbons there were just 13 students in AP Calculus, notes Math Department Chair Joan Troy, who has worked side by side with John for the last 18 years. The calculus program has grown tremendously since then.
“It is a testament to the expertise and love of teaching that John brings to his job,” Joan says of the growth. “His students have a great appreciation for his dry sense of humor ... and they appreciate that he is a true mathematician, scholar, and a dedicated teacher.”
Evidence of that dedication is the 5 Club, which John created eight years ago to reward students who received a 5 on their AP exam. The reward? Dinner with John at an area restaurant. Then there’s the fact that John will teach one class next year to shepherd the junior students he taught this year through their next level course.
So, what would he like people to remember about him? “I did my job, didn’t miss class, and taught my students very well,” he says.
His students agree. On their last day of classes, a group of seniors presented John with a placard that simply and poignantly stated: Thank you for all of the memories. The Gibbons school community feels the same way.
Read stories of the other retiring classroom and office educators: