By Aiden Wacksman
A little more than 30 years ago, math and English teacher Jim Margerum arrived at Oak Hall School, and has been here ever since.
Margerum was raised in Miami, Fla., and attended Miami Carol City High School. In his high school years, he played wide receiver on the football team and was a member of the wrestling and weightlifting teams; although football was his favorite sport to play. In college, he was a powerlifter at the University of Florida. “It was a club sport… and we would represent Florida at the collegiate state championships,” Margerum said. At the time, he was able to legally bench press 300 pounds, which was more than two times his bodyweight.
After graduating high school, he continued his education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York for two years, even though he had the choice of going to the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech). “Rensselaer Polytechnic gave me more money than Cal Tech,” he noted of his college decision.
At RPI, he completed his undergraduates in math and physics. He then went on to UF where he earned an undergraduate degree in English and graduate degrees in mathematics education. “I came back to Florida to save money and because UF had so many classes in addition to the math and science [classes] that I could take,” he said.
Even though he has been teaching for three decades, the idea of becoming a teacher wasn’t on Margerum’s mind after graduating college. “I didn’t entertain the idea of becoming a teacher until I was in my 30s,” Margerum noted. He wanted to focus on having a career rather than being a “student” of the subjects he was interested in. At the time, Oak Hall only had two math teachers, and one of them was leaving. “[Oak Hall] reached out to some professors and one of them recommended me,” he stated. After that, the rest is history. Margerum was hired and began teaching geometry, trigonometry, and precalculus in the fall of 1989. In the same year he arrived at Oak Hall, he started the inaugural weightlifting team, which competes in the spring sports season. “Practices are my favorite thing about coaching the weightlifting team; working out together is great fun,” Margerum said.
Today he teaches classes such as Calculus BC and Conspiracies and Mysteries. He also teaches Fantasy Literature, which is convenient since one of his favorite books is Lord of the Rings. His favorite types of mathematics include topology, mathematical set theory, and category theory. Margerum’s favorite class to teach is honors discrete mathematics, because he gets to choose what topics he teaches. “[Discrete] gives people in the class a different look at math than other algebra and calculus courses,” he said. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, weightlifting, listening to music, and spending time with his wife.