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The student news site of Amador Valley High School

AmadorValleyToday

The student news site of Amador Valley High School

AmadorValleyToday

The student news site of Amador Valley High School

AmadorValleyToday

Former marine turned math teacher: Mike DeVor shares his unorthodox journey from childhood to retirement

Mike+DeVor+pursued+many+occupations+before+he+became+a+teacher%2C+one+of+which+was+being+a+Navy+engineer.+
Edwin He
Mike DeVor pursued many occupations before he became a teacher, one of which was being a Navy engineer.

Mike DeVor taught Honors Algebra II and Honors Geometry at Amador Valley High School for eight years, retiring in 2022. His path to a teaching career is unconventional, going into the Navy, becoming a civil engineer, and even taking a job as a travel guide. 

The Path to a Teaching Credential

DeVor grew up on a farm. His dad wanted him to stay and work on the farm, but he had a dream to go to college. 

“I told him I wanted to go, [but] we didn’t have any money. So, I went into the Navy to explore the world and also get enough money to pay for college. At the time, they had something called a GI Bill, which would pay for you to go to college once you got out of the service,” said DeVor

Once DeVor left the Navy, he went to UC Berkeley and graduated with a degree in civil engineering. He took a job as a civil engineer, but after entering the workplace, he felt like something was missing. 

“I forget exactly how many years, but I realized I wasn’t enjoying my work. The stuff I went to school to do I found that on the actual job, I wasn’t doing that. It was more community contact. It just wasn’t me, so I quit,” said DeVor

DeVor wanted to teach, but he needed to earn money to go back to school. In the meantime, he decided to work for an active travel company as a guide.

“[We were] called leaders. We would go all over the world and North America. I was the leader of these biking and hiking trips. So, in effect, I was being paid to ride a bike. What I had intended to be a short-term one-kind-of-summer thing ended up being almost six years. I just had a great time,” said DeVor

Along the way, DeVor met his wife who was currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He decided it was time to settle down and quit his travel guide job. 

“I kind of fell in love and wanted to have a family. Traveling all over the world was not a good way to have a family. So anyway, long story short, from there, I went to get my teaching credential,” said DeVor

Life as a Teacher

DeVor started teaching at Harvest Park where he taught for around 12 years. Then in 2014, he got a job as a math teacher at Amador Valley High School. 

“I taught at Amador for the last eight years, and really the best eight years of my teaching career. I made so many great connections and friends. The administration and staff were just fantastic,” said DeVor.

DeVor’s experience in his previous occupations carried over into his job as a teacher. The military taught him to pay attention to details and as a travel guide, he learned how to lead a group. 

“When I was working as a guide and a leader, [I] developed my leadership skills. [I] had to lead [a travel group and] make sure that they got every penny that they paid for,” said DeVor. “It was about making those relationships and understanding that each person is an individual even though we’re all here as a group. A lot of that stuff translated over into teaching.”

During his time at Amador Valley High School, DeVor was constantly trying to improve the way he approached teaching. 

“I look back on my first couple of years of teaching, and I just laugh like, ‘Oh my god, those poor kids.’ Because then I just had this idea that the most important thing is the math. You have this thing that you’ve got to be disciplined,” said DeVor. “Grades, homework, and all that stuff is so important. But, you eventually gravitate to the situation where you realize: the math is not that important, right? What’s more important are the people.”

DeVor shifted his teaching methods to better accommodate the individual needs of his students, outside of learning math. He believes this is the best way to help them thrive.

“The anxiety of a teenager is just something that is far and away the hardest part of your life. And for me, I thought the best way to approach it is to think it’s not about the math, [or] the grade, but the experience,” said DeVor. “[I] try to make my class not so stressful, manage expectations with parents, and build relationships with [my] students. Let them know, ‘Man, grades are not the only thing. Trust me.’” 

In 2022, DeVor decided to step down from his job as a teacher to pursue other interests and spend more time with family. 

“We were offered a big bonus package from the district to retire because we were making a lot of money. If they incentivized us to retire, they could then hire new teachers, which were half the price. I was already at retirement age and I always thought well, then I can do all these other things that I like to do,” said DeVor.

Retirement Experience

In retirement, DeVor was able to travel and learn new skills at Las Positas College

“I’ve got a chance to travel to Europe with my daughter [and] I have been taking classes just for fun at the junior college at LASPO. Instead of getting up at 4:30 a.m., working on lessons or grading, I roll out of bed relatively late. [I] can relax, have my coffee, and take my dog out for a walk,” said DeVor

However, DeVor soon found out in retirement that he missed teaching. Teaching is what gave him joy. 

“I like math, and I like to teach. I really love the energy that I get from the kids. That’s what made my world go around. What I ended up doing after retiring is now I teach at The Art of Problem Solving Academy a couple of nights a week and I tutor,” said DeVor

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