Teacher Feature: Richard Madigan
February 14, 2011 by
“I’m banned from China,” said Richard Madigan, a new 10th and 12th grade English teacher. While Mr. Madigan was in graduate school in Ireland, he was president of the Graduate Students’ Union at Trinity College Dublin. He started a campaign to free a fellow student who was imprisoned in China and tortured for practicing Falun Gong, a religion that was founded in 1992 but that the Communist Party of China has banned since 1999. Mr. Madigan assembled an international group of activists, including organizations such as Free Tibet. Two years later, the student was released and returned to Ireland, but not before the Graduate Students’ Union received a fax from the Chinese embassy in Dublin saying that certain members, Madigan included, would not be allowed to enter the People’s Republic of China.
Before Mr. Madigan started graduate school and his campaign for human rights, he was an undergraduate political science major. He switched to Medieval Studies after his “Age of Dante” professor inspired his interest in the subject. “During my undergraduate career, I focused on medieval Irish history and literature,” said Mr. Madigan. “I loved the idea of studying all aspects of the culture.” After receiving his undergraduate degree, he lived in Ireland for two years to attend graduate school. He hopes to complete his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Administration at George Washington University.
Mr. Madigan did not become a teacher immediately after college. “For two years I was a sales representative for an IBM business partner [in Seattle],” said Mr. Madigan. “I sold midrange business systems. I loved learning the field. I loved getting out there, meeting new customers and trying to figure out what they needed to solve their problems.” Mr. Madigan said that it was an interesting experiment to see if he liked the business world. He did not like the sales aspect, and switched to teaching eight years ago.
After working in Seattle, Mr. Madigan taught for seven years in Palm Beach County, Florida. “I taught an array of history and drama classes,” he said. This is his first year teaching English. “[T.C. Williams] needed an English teacher and I said, ‘I can do that.’” School officials knew his background as an interdisciplinary major and thought he would be a good fit for teaching World Literature and British Literature.
Mr. Madigan was also considered a good fit at T.C. because he taught at a school that faced similar challenges. “One of the schools I worked at in Palm Beach County had just been zero-based,” he said. “Every teacher on the campus had to reapply for the job. The principal was only allowed to hire half of them back.” The school had never made Adequate Yearly Progress. “I had experience in an environment where a lot of teachers and administrators were trying to do their best to help students succeed,” Mr. Madigan said. Each school in Florida is assigned a letter grade. “Within a couple of years, we’d raised the school grade from a D to a B,” he said. They also created an International Baccalaureate program.
Since Mr. Madigan came to T.C., he has attended monthly meetings about the IB program and shares the information with administrators and teachers. “Mr. Balas asked for volunteers for the IB Site Team and I signed up because the first school where I worked implemented an IB program while I was there,” said Mr. Madigan. “I was already familiar with the program requirements.” His experience in Florida prepared him to teach at T.C. “From my very first contact with Alexandria City Public Schools, I knew about the transformation,” Mr. Madigan said. “I looked at that as one of the reasons why I wanted to be here.”
Mr. Madigan loves T.C. “The Transformation could be tense,” he said. “[But] the staff has been so warm. I can ask any teacher or administrator in this building for help and I know I’m going to get it.” He is enthusiastic about his job. “My students have been a lot of fun to work with this year. They are working very hard for me and I appreciate that,” he said. “For the last eight years I’ve been exactly where I think I should be.”