Math is a pretty concrete concept — there’s not a lot of wiggle room for interpretation. Life isn’t always like that. So sometimes instead of 1+1 adding up to 2, life throws a variable at you. That’s what happened to Philip Campbell and it changed the course of his career path. Instead of ending up working as a physical therapist, he ended up with a career as a mathematics teacher.
Campbell, 32, graduated from Westside High School in Macon in 2007 and came to Statesboro as many people do — to attend Georgia Southern University.
“My original plan when I came to college was to work in the health field and become a physical therapist,” said Campbell. “I majored in Exercise Science and did not perform the way I expected. I was not able to get into PT school and I knew I had to find another career path.”
Campbell’s natural mathematical acumen had helped him in high school to excel but also to assist his friends by tutoring them in math. He says he’s always been good at math and had the ability to explain it in a variety of ways that make it easy for people to understand.
He continued tutoring throughout college, volunteering with organizations and churches.
After graduating from Georgia Southern with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science, Campbell got a job at a fast food restaurant and continued tutoring on the side. After a year in the food industry, he left his job to become a substitute teacher for Bulloch County schools in late 2015.
Since his original plan had been to go into the health field, Campbell had no experience in the field of teaching but he quickly realized that teaching was where he belonged.
Campbell said that during the time he was a substitute teacher, he traveled to many schools week to week, and that gave him the opportunity to work with different students and different subject areas.
“Even though some days were better than others, I felt like this is where I needed to be. As a substitute teacher, I gained so much knowledge and strategies from other teachers that I had to become a teacher,” he said.
He has completed the TeacherReady online program at the University of West Florida and been teaching for seven years now.
He also got married to LeShai Campbell around the same time that he began teaching. They are parents to a 2-year-old fur-baby, an energetic dog named Boogie.
Together, Campbell and his wife created a nonprofit organization called Restoring the Breach Inc., which provides a multitude of services in the community, with tutoring as one of those services.
They collaborate with the Statesboro Bulloch County Regional Library to offer tutoring from September through April each year. They tutor grades ranging from K-12 and focus on the subject contents of mathematics and English and language arts (ELA). Many tutors come from GSU and there is a student organization branch of the nonprofit.
In his spare time, he likes to read, play video games and fantasy football, spend time with his family and friends and go bowling.
Campbell is currently teaching middle grades mathematics at Statesboro STEAM Academy. He recently received a promotion to the position of Student Services Director.
“Some of those job duties include evaluating teachers and supervising and providing guidance to students. Also, I am the head coach of the high school boys basketball team at STEAM,” he said.
Education is obviously the field that Campbell was meant to serve in and it shows through his dedication. He acknowledges that providing a good education and support system to students sets a good foundation for each student’s future. It’s an investment into not only their lives, but the lives of all they touch — including Campbell.
“Teaching has made a big difference in my life. I understand that the students that I teach are the future. They are the people who are going to make decisions for us when we become older,” he said.
He takes that investment into the children to heart.
“It is my job to install as much knowledge, life lessons, morals, and love as possible into them so they can become outstanding citizens for their community,” he said. “I want to see all of my students succeed and get the best out of life and to live to their fullest potential. That is what the profession is about.”
However, teachers don’t just teach. They learn as well. They learn skills to apply to future classes and lessons and they learn from other teachers. When asked what piece of advice was given to him as a child or a young teacher that impacted him, Campbell said that the best advice he’d received as a fledgling educator was from Statesboro STEAM School Director Corliss Reese.
“He told me to always be authentic and to find ways to relate to my students. Just as important as it is for students to respect you, it is important to find interests in your students. This builds unforgettable relationships with them and has an intrinsic impact on their academics,” he recalled.
School lessons aren’t the only things that Campbell and his fellow educators are teaching these students — as he said, they are also teaching morals and character and as Reese advised him, creating relationships with these students that will impact them. Many students may not have good parental role models in their lives or may have parents who work a lot in order to provide for their children, so a teacher’s impact on a student can be felt even as that child becomes an adult themselves.
A piece of advice that Campbell gives to students is: “Frustrations will come sometimes when you are doing a certain skill or assignment, but never say that you can’t do it. Sometimes it’s something small that you are missing and other times you just have to keep practicing and pushing yourself until you get it right.”
That perseverance and “pushing yourself until you get it right” that Campbell is instilling in the children he is teaching and tutoring is the exact same thing that he himself did more than years ago. When his planned career choice didn’t work out for him, he didn’t let that defeat him. Instead, he took his passion and his knowledge and added them together for a sum that his students are surely happy to have.