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Rapid Fire Questions with 38-Year Counselor, Teacher Mr. Alan Barker

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we interviewed our faculty member who has been at Catholic Central the longest - Counselor Mr. Alan Barker:

When did you begin working at Catholic Central?

I started in the fall of 1985, so this marks the end of my 38th year at CC.

What did you teach at CC, and how long did you teach before transitioning to counseling?

I taught science, mostly chemistry and biology, for my first few years. Eventually, I shifted towards biology with Mr. Gagnon, Mr. Babicz, and Mr. Rumberger back in the day. I took over the honors and AP chemistry classes in 1995 and ended up staying with chemistry until 2010.

What is your favorite memory from your time at CC?

There are many, many great memories, from amazing young men in my classes, to wonderful colleagues, to the many achievements of our athletic teams. One of my favorites is from 2000 when two of my students won Grand Awards at the Science & Engineering Fair of Metropolitan Detroit (SEFMD) and competed at the International Science Fair. I was helping set up one of the projects and ended up chatting with a Nobel Prize-winning chemist from Rice University while my student helped a competitor from Australia!

How did you come to work at CC?

I applied for a position in the summer of 1985 after seeing an opening. I was familiar with CC's reputation from attending Plymouth-Canton High School and having a good friend who attended Bishop Borgess. I interviewed for three hours with Kathy Kitzmann (one of the finest teachers I have known) in the chemistry stockroom. About a week later, Mrs. Rosemary Bales called me saying Fr. Andrews wanted to meet with me.  

What part of your work do you find most rewarding?

As a teacher, seeing the occasional "Ah-ha!" moment when a student grasped a difficult concept was most rewarding. As a counselor, hearing graduates express appreciation for what CC has done for them and helping students find their way is extremely rewarding.

What inspired you to transition from teaching to counseling?

Switching from teaching to counseling was not an easy decision. I loved being in the classroom, getting to know the students and seeing them grow throughout the year. I consulted a good friend, who taught in a school district up north, and he was a huge proponent of taking on and learning new things at your job. Mr. Jim Gavin was also instrumental in helping me make the decision; working with him and Shawn Mather was wonderful.

What do you think is the most important trait a guidance counselor should have?

Counselors should be good listeners, paying attention to what people do and don’t say, and how they say it. Flexibility is a vital trait as well–I never know what a day will hold.

What does a day in your life look like at CC?

In the mornings, I make appointments to see various students for a number of reasons. Usually, I work off a plan to see members of a particular grade level, but the day is also filled with meetings, phone calls, emails, and the unexpected.

If you could go back in time and give your high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would tell myself to try new things in college and remember that I still have plenty to learn, both in the classroom and about life.

What's your favorite hobby or activity to do outside of work?

My favorite hobby would probably be watching movies. I gravitate toward action/adventure films and am a huge James Bond fan. It’s a good day when you can drop the perfect movie quote in a given situation!

Alan Barker finds his roots along the East Coast, having lived in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Ohio before finally landing in Michigan in fourth grade. He grew up in a household with high academic standards and expectations. After graduating from Canton High School, which was Plymouth-Canton High School back in the day, Mr. Barker went on to earn a bachelor degree from Northern Michigan University in chemistry with a teaching certificate, after student teaching in Crystal Falls, MI. After several years in the classroom, Mr. Barker earned his Master’s degree in guidance & counseling from Eastern Michigan University. Mr. Barker credits his 26 years of classroom teaching experience for giving him a valuable perspective on the student-teacher relationship. He is able to recognize certain student behaviors and patterns and offer students pointers on the do’s and don'ts of navigating a difficult subject. With two teenagers of his own, Mr. Barker understands the at-home struggles of balancing homework and activities.

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