Math teacher inspires students with rhyme, never-give-up attitude

Don't let the rhyme and choreography fool you.

“I will have students 10 years out come back, like, ‘Hey! Multiply the co-efficient, add the exponent.’ You can’t argue with it because it works!" said Steven McIlrath, WGN's October Teacher of the Month.

This is calculus with Mr. Mac at Austin College and Career Academy. His formula's not only transforming the way students learn math -- it's changing the way they feel about themselves.

"He tells you to set your goals higher than what you think you can do. You have more potential than you think you have," said student Rebecca Centeno.

"He’s not just a math teacher. I came to him and said, ‘Mr. Mac, I’m ready to give up.’ He said, ‘Give up? That shouldn’t be coming out of your mouth,'" said student Diamond Smith.

"He tells me every day, ‘Dajinae, you’re good. Slow down, you’re more than enough.’ That motivates me to keep going,” said student Dajinae Leverston.

Usually it's a single student who nominates a favorite teacher. But for Mr. Mac, there were six!

"He really taught me a lot over the two years I had him, and I learned more about math than I ever did previously," said student Jacob Jones. "He takes his time teaching so it helps the kids to learn more faster even the kids that are not up to the same speed as the other kids. They are able to learn just as well.”

"I always struggled in math. I used to always just give up on everything, but when I got in Mr. Mac’s class he was always telling me I could do better, but I never believed it because math is my weakest subject. He never gave up on me. He kept pushing me forward," said student Monifah Johnson.

"Any time you learn something you didn’t previously know, that’s fun. What doesn’t feel good is to come up against things that you don’t know how to do and stay stuck,” Mr. Mac said.

In honor of his outstanding work at Austin, Mr. Mac received a $1,000 check from Saint Xavier University, recognition his students say he surely deserves.

“He fought for us to have an AP Calc class, so over the summer we had class and he wasn’t getting paid. So that told me he wasn’t just a regular teacher. It’s really his passion to teach and want to help students," said Renia Hamilton said.

"I feel good teaching almost every single day, and that is the biggest prize," Mr. Mac said.

"He’s making us think for life not just where we are now. I like that about him. It’s different. I never thought a teacher would think I matter, I really matter," Leverston said.