Teacher Timothy King spends tenure instilling kindness, environmental appreciation in MHS

Risha Chada | The Chronicle

Timothy King may be the longest-tenured teacher at Mason High School (MHS), but his compassion for his students has more than stood the test of time.

While King has taught at the school for decades, MHS is not the same school it was when he first began his career. As new people, new clubs, new cultures and new mindsets flooded the school, King adapted to every wave of change that he experienced. King not only adjusted to Mason’s continuous change, but he said he embraced it, growing to love the school’s vibrancy.

“I love [Mason], never for one second have I been bored here,” King said. “Teaching [here] is fun and exciting, and [high school] is just a time of life when everybody is just so enthusiastic and not yet cynical and discouraged.”

Demographics throughout Mason have shifted dramatically since the 1990s, fostering more inclusivity in recent years. That shift towards a diverse population started with just a few kids, students that King remembers teaching. Even with the experience King has, he said he still remembers one particular student that caused a butterfly effect in the ‘90s. An African American student “single-handedly [caused] change,” as King said, offering insight previously unknown to Mason, leading to a more accepting school environment. 

Students such as that one sparked change not only in the school, but also in King. Over his years of teaching, King has been impacted by the thousands of students that have walked through the halls of MHS and helped him grow as a teacher and a person. With each new class of adolescents he encounters, King said he aspires to continue his learning. 

“Every time I have seen a student thought of as ‘unsuccessful’ turn it around or show an interest in something they just prove that every single person has something to say,” King said. “I realized everybody in this class has something to offer and it’s my job to help them discover what that is.”

Words of the Wild, a class entirely created and taught by King, has become a rite of passage for many seniors. When King created Words of the Wild in the late 1990s, his inspiration stemmed from his childhood, wanting to provide his students with a look into his own positive experiences. With his father’s love for hiking and his mother’s fishing, it was almost inevitable for King to grow up with a love for nature.

“My mother’s family had a cottage in Canada, my dad’s side of the family had a cottage on Lake Erie, and we idolized our Alaskan cousins,” King said. “My aunt gave me a book called Words of the Wild and I liked to read that book while camping.”

King said he wishes for students to understand his love of nature when they leave his class, hopefully working to preserve the environment as much as they can. In the single year King has with each class of students, King strives to create a bond between his students and with nature. Though some classes may take a test-based approach to learning, Words of the Wild encourages students to cherish nature’s whimsical beauty. King said he appreciates a quote by Harvard Professor E. O. Wilson, in which he states that you must teach science “from the top down” to garner student interest.

“[Teaching] the deer first, or the tree, instead of starting with cells and math, creates a connection with nature’s beauty and hooks people in,” King said. “Then, we tend to take care of the things we love.”

Through this method of connection with the natural world, King has watched his students excel as they move beyond his classroom. In the time King has taught at Mason, more than a few of his previous students have come back to their former high school as teachers. King said he admires everyone he had once taught who are now teachers themselves and loves seeing his own passion for teaching emanated in their teaching.

“I could go on and on about the different [current teachers] I’ve taught and how great they are with kids,” King said. Teachers such as Darin Little make the list of people who King has watched grow into their career after previously being a student of his.

As it was with the class Little was in and with every class since, King has done his best to craft bonds between his students and create an unforgettable classroom-spanning connection. King said it is these connections that make more and more people start to care, rather than only one person working toward a cause.

“What I try to do is model love, kindness and patience for those that need it,” King said. “It sounds corny, but by the end of the year, my goal is that we all feel a sort of admiration for each other.”

King has been a pillar of the school for decades. Whether it was as a teacher, coach, mentor or club advisor, he helped foster the crucial appreciation many Mason students have for nature. After his years of teaching, King said that anyone who contemplates a career in education should focus on what is truly important.

“Find something you really want to teach and keep it simple,” King said. “We always try to make it harder than it is, but the study of teaching is just love and patience.”

As someone who has been helping students for nearly 40 years, King said he understands the pressures young people face. Instead of dismissing it, King said he hopes kids will acknowledge what they personally want for their futures, rather than what they are expected to do.

“Learn who you are, because having a vocation that gives your life meaning and that you actually love can just change your life,” King said. “Forget about the money. Forget about what your parents say. Work hard to find your talents.”