New US Teacher’s International Journey

By Grace Bernstein

A new year at Oak Hall has begun, and with it, new faculty has arrived. The Upper School math department gained two teachers, both from Turkey, Ugur Baslanti and Paul McInerney. Although McInerney was born in America, he taught in Turkey for seven of the past eight years, with teaching one year in China. Currently, McInerney teaches AP Statistics, Algebra II, Algebra II – Honors, and an ACT/SAT prep course.

Growing up in Bay Shore, NY, McInerney always wanted to be a teacher ever since he was 7 years old. As his education continued at New Trier Township High School in Chicago, so did the desire to teach the grade he was studying himself. In college, he knew that high school students were his favorite demographic to teach. 

He began his career as a substitute teacher in upstate New York, and while that only lasted six months, he gained experience in many different subjects. For the latter half of the year, McInerney was a math teacher at Morris Central School, a combination school about three and a half hours from New York City. After a short stint at a junior high school in Chicago, McInerney taught in Wisconsin for the next six years. From there, he taught in Miami for eight years, then decided to take a break and become a travel agent in Denver, before returning to teaching. “It was my little hiatus,” McInerney joked. His return to teaching kept him in Denver for four years before having an immense desire to teach abroad.

This interest all started with a vacation to Hawaii. He loved being in a new environment, surrounded by a different language and a different culture. “It felt like I was in a different country,” he said.  Since Hawaii was the farthest he had traveled outside of the continental United States, he “wondered what it would be like to teach in another country.” McInerney reached out to a teacher placement agency, Carney Sandoe & Associates, to see if any opportunities abroad were available.

He began his international teaching journey in Turkey and loved it, but his family wasn’t too fond of him staying abroad. Two years after his teaching adventure began, he taught in China for one year, before returning to Turkey for another six years. While contemplating his initial expedition to Turkey, he came to a realization about life. “I didn’t want to be old and say, ‘I regret that’, not teaching outside the US,” McInerney stated.

McInerny explained that he learned all he knows about teaching due to observing other teachers. “Any good teacher is a good teacher because they are a thief,” he joked. He noted that the best teachers learn from their own favorite instructor and apply those skills with their own students.

As he began looking to return to the states, Oak Hall was one of the suggested schools for McInerney, given to him by his placement agency. After much research, and an unconventional interview process, the math teacher realized Oak Hall was the right fit for him. “This school is amazing for me,” he said. “The students are very exceptional in personality and have great academic potential worthy of some exploration and drive.”