Written by Spencer Tu and Thomas Wood
Mr. Shircliff joined St. Mary’s International School three years ago in 2014. Born and raised in a small town called Elizabethtown in Kentucky, he was a recruiter in IT staffing before beginning his career as a teacher. His teaching career started in the American School of Bangkok (ASB) as a 6th and 7th grade math teacher. When asked why he decided to come to Japan, he explained that “I was always fascinated by Japan, and just the culture here. I came and visited here my first year in Thailand and so that’s when I decided that this is the place that I want to come and teach” (Shircliff). Luckily, Mr. Shircliff has had the chance to work with St. Mary’s high school vice principal Mr. Sharp and high school principal Mr. Faulkner at ASB, and in part with their help, he was able to start a new life here in Tokyo. Teaching 6th grade math and 6th grade robotics at St. Mary’s, Mr. Shircliff seems to love and enjoy this new environment. As he explained, “As a foreigner living here it’s really easy… as far as how safe and how clean and how good the transportation is” (Shircliff).
Mr. Shircliff is a teacher with many talents. In fact, before becoming a recruiter, he wanted to pursue his passion for music. To realize his dream, Mr. Shircliff took a university course in classical guitar. However, soon he realized that he wasn’t talented enough to be a professional musician. He still plays acoustic guitar as a hobby, and he explained, “I still love playing though, and will continue for the rest of my life” (Shircliff). Mr. Shircliff was a part of the SMIS teacher band called “Woad Wocket” for his first two years, and he really enjoyed the experience. Mr. Shircliff is also an athlete and a coach. When we asked for his hobby, he explains that “I love running. I am a runner and that’s probably my number one passion” (Shircliff). Beside running, Mr. Shircliff said he got into rock climbing recently and it’s really enjoyable. He also has knowledge about baseball and basketball as he coaches middle school baseball and 6th grade basketball. Moreover, Mr. Shircliff has extensive knowledge about robotics as he is the teacher and the founder of the 6th grade robotics class.
Since Mr. Shircliff is a teacher who is passionate about robotics, we decided to ask his opinion on the relationship between technology and students. We asked “Do you feel the improvement in technology changes the way students act in classroom/school?” In response, he talked about how technology impacts student’s decision on how to spend their leisure time:
Absolutely. It’s much harder for the kids to go outside now. When I was a kid I had a huge backyard that me and my buddy would just go play all day … I think with technology, it almost cripples some kids. As a middle school teacher, I think that technology has its purpose, but sometime I think it’s utilized too much both inside and outside of the class” (Shircliff).
Although he believes that technology has it’s downside, he understands that technology has been integrated with education at a relatively early stage. He also believes that when technology is used right, it can bolster learning. However, he does feel that children spend too much time using technology outside of the class. “Instead of staying at home looking at a screen, they need to be outside doing sports or something. They don’t need an iPhone 7; they just need a small phone [on which] they can call Mom or Dad,” said Mr. Shircliff (Shircliff).
In order to know more about Mr. Shircliff, we decided to interview his co-worker/friend: Mr. Oines. Mr. Shircliff and Mr. Oines joined the SIMS faculty at the same time, and they have known each other for 3 years. We asked Mr. Oines to describe Mr. Shircliff as a co-worker, he explained that “[Mr. Shircliff is] a lot of fun, calm, driven, motivated, and would do everything he can for his student” (Oines). Mr. Oines also mentioned that he believes that Mr. Shircliff is a great math teacher as Mr. Shircliff always approaches problems or the subject itself from outside of the box. Mr. Shircliff is definitely a dedicated and amazing teacher, and St.Mary’s is very lucky to have him.
We wanted to see how the students saw Mr. Shircliff as a teacher and how he is outside of the classroom so we talked to a few of his students. One of the students, Tyler Wood said:
He’s a very nice person and when he teaches, he makes sure he gets the information through to us very clearly. Along with that he makes teaching very fun and interactive. For example, today we played math bingo in his class. Things like math bingo make learning fun and it’s something we look forward to every day” (Wood).
From Tyler’s explanation, we can see that Mr. Shircliff is an advocate of interactive learning and he strives to make learning fun for the 6th graders. Another student of Mr. Shircliff’s, Aron Erdos said, “Mr. Shircliff is the best teacher I’ve ever had. He’s funny, cool, and his teaching is easily understandable. His class is very entertaining and awesome” (Erdos). Roland Bridgeman, another one of Mr. Shircliff’s students also said, “He’s a very good teacher and he’s very nice and kind with his students” (Bridgeman). Mr. Shircliff does his very best to give his students the best education. In short, Mr. Shircliff doesn’t just stand up at the board to teach or tell his students to read the textbook. He actually plans activities and projects to help his students work together to have a deeper understanding about the subject.
Mr. Shircliff is also the coach of the 6th grade basketball team. Makoto Urabe plays under his coaching, so he gets to see Mr. Shircliff both inside and outside of the class. We asked Makoto, “How is Mr. Shircliff like outside of the classroom?” He replied with, “Mr. Shircliff isn’t different at all. He’s the same both in and out of the classroom” (Urabe). Since Makoto plays under Mr. Shircliff, we also asked him, “How is Mr. Shircliff as a basketball coach?” Makoto explained, “He’s a very good basketball coach and has the same approach to basketball as he does with academics. He makes sure the players are having fun and learning a lot. He makes sure that we improve as much as possible” (Urabe). To back up the fact that he’s a good coach, his team only lost one game this whole season.
As we can see from what is being said from Makoto, Mr. Shircliff prioritizes his students learning whether it is in or out of the classroom. This attitude is what makes him such a great teacher, coach, and person. Going out of his way to give his students and players the best opportunities, Mr. Shircliff is so good at what he does because he pays attention to strategies and tries to discover the best approaches to learning for his students.