Building Connections On and Off the Field

Harding High School teacher Michael Houston is an Education Minnesota Teacher of the Year nominee.

Growing up in a housing project in Ohio, Michael Houston says he spent a lot of time indoors due to the danger of the neighborhood.  While he wasn’t always able to exercise his body, he did exercise his mind by doing puzzles – which ultimately led to his love for math.

Houston, who has been teaching algebra and calculus at Harding High School for 13 years, was a finalist for Teacher of the Year in the annual competition sponsored by Education Minnesota. “I was truly humbled and honored to be recognized by my colleagues,” says Houston.

In addition to his role in the classroom, Houston is also the varsity football coach. “There are a lot of parallels. One is a sport, and one is a math class, but I am always trying to connect with students both on and off the field,” he says. “And in both places, students need to put in the hard work and be dedicated.”  Houston himself knows about that particular kind of dedication; he was a walk-on player for the University of Minnesota football team when he was a student.

Houston is happy to serve as a mentor to young people at Harding since he has a deep understanding of the challenges many of them face. “I grew up in a single parent household and I struggled in high school,” he says. “I moved here and found my own identity. I overcame my situation as an at-risk youth. I want to help them realize what they can achieve, not only in high school, but in life in general.”