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From Student teacher to Dean at Chandler Woods

Ryan Hathaway was set on being a high school math teacher. He had it all planned out. But, like many well laid plans, things changed last-minute, and he was placed at Chandler Woods Charter Academy as a middle school student-teacher.

“It changed everything,” said Hathaway. “My student-teaching opened my eyes to the way middle schoolers think and interact. I was set on teaching calculus, but, 11 years later, here I am still in middle school.”

His experience as a student-teacher at Chandler Woods was so positive that when his placement ended he applied to become a seventh-grade teacher there. He hoped to stay at the place he had learned to love during his time as a college student.

“Everything about student-teaching is a bit of a blur, but the thing that sticks out the most is the students,” Hathaway said. “The way they treated me as a new person in the building and the way they treated each other made me realize this school was special.”

While the jump from student-teacher to full-time teacher can be daunting, Hathaway had familiarity on his side to help with the transition.  

“The teacher who I student-taught for was also my mentor for my first three years at Chandler Woods,” Hathaway said. “I was excited to begin my career, and familiar faces made it a bit easier.”

After seven years as a middle school teacher, he was ready for his next challenge: becoming a dean. In 2014, he transitioned from teacher to dean, a role he enjoys.

“There is something special about working with middle school students,” Hathaway said. “I have the opportunity to get to know many wonderful families and watch students grow up throughout their middle school years and, many times, through high school and college.”

Hathaway has held many roles at Chandler Woods, from coach, to athletic director, to teacher, and now dean; he’s learned a lot. But one thing he will never forget is the luck of a student-teaching placement that landed him at a school he now considers home.

His advice for student-teachers?

“Find a place that feels like home and teach there,” Hathaway said. “When you find the place that fits you as a person, go there. It makes all the difference.”

About Chandler Woods Charter Academy
Chandler Woods Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Belmont, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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