Forever Mr. Young

Nora Fellas, Blogger

One Winter, about 30 years ago, a young couple went to Iowa for an international job fair to be assigned to teach. They were offered a position to teach in either Costa Rica or The Philippines. “You basically have 24 hours at these things to decide where you are going to teach and where you are going to live, so it’s a little stressful, but it’s also exhilarating.” Said Mr. Young, when I sat down with him this week. He and his wife, Ms. Berroll, ended up deciding on the Philippines and taught there in an international school for about 5 years. Young said he loves to travel, “to just get on a plane, land in a place, and just unpeel the onion of that place is really exciting to [him].” Young and Berrol, have taught in Manilla, Copenhagen, and various schools all over the USA, but have been settled at Masters for about 20 years. Teaching in the Philippines was, “challenging. We hadn’t had much exposure to the developing world, so it was a real eye-opener. And we’d never been to Asia. It’s really life-changing, you come away and think of the world differently. You become a lot less Amerocentric,” says Young.

It’s Young’s openness to all cultures that makes him such an inspiring history teacher — and I know that from my own experience of being in his class. But surprisingly, teaching wasn’t always his plan. When he was a teenager, his intent was “to go to law school and major in whatever, and become a lawyer.” After law school, he worked in a corporate law firm, but, at the time, he felt it was “mostly filling out forms– boring.” Then, he thought, “Ok, maybe I’ll do the corporate thing at a financial firm. One day I was looking up the ladder, like, I don’t wanna be those people.” Berrol was beginning her career in education, so Young decided to do the same. He got his teaching degree from Tufts. It was “practical and pragmatic. I got to go back to be a student and get involved in teaching.”

After teaching in the Philippines and Copenhagen, Young and Berrol moved with their daughter to Masters. Young said, about having a family on campus, “it can be really wonderful but at times challenging because of a lot of intersections… I teach some of my children’s friends… It’s stressful at times, but all in all, it’s a community and that’s a nice thing.” Young acknowledges that his favorite thing about Masters is a bit cliche: “The students. They are inquisitive, open, not in a box. We aren’t a one-type-or-another school… that variety is what makes it exciting… we together as a class can decide how we want to do things.”

When I asked Young about trends that baffle him, he said, “Oh my gosh! I feel a bit like a Neanderthal.”  He mentioned looking up the word, “trolling,” in the Urban Dictionary. “Language is hard for me. Like abbreviations, I go to my daughter, ‘like what does that mean?’ I don’t understand certain emojis. I think it means something, it’s like ‘oh no dad that doesn’t mean what you think it means.’” Young mentioned John Hughes (Director of such classic films as The Breakfast Club, 16 Candles ,and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). At some point in his career, people asked him why he didn’t continue making young adult movies. Hughes said, “Because I’m not 25. Those movies are meant for younger directors.” Young says, “That’s how I feel. I do my best to understand younger generations, but I don’t need to try to be that.”

Young’s advice to graduating seniors is: “Use college to explore yourself… otherwise, you will wake up at some point and go, ‘I’m not really happy.’ If teaching in a school didn’t make me happy, I’d pack up and do something else. Does it make the kind of money that something else does? No. But by the same token, it makes me rich in ways that I can’t put into monetary value. Would I want to be on Wall Street? No, because it doesn’t fit my personality. But I don’t begrudge people who do. They can’t wait to go and trade some stocks…  Use this time to try to figure that out. It’s a process, it’s never done, but use college as a way to explore your interests.”