The final countdown: Harding’s last year

Harding mid-teaching his third period Pre Calculus class.

Photo by Lia Koski

Harding mid-teaching his third period Pre Calculus class.

Lia Koski, Reporter

   Jeff Harding is a well-known teacher at Mundelein High School, and he has impacted many MHS students’ lives in his math classes. Harding also is a part of the theater program at MHS. Harding is now retiring after 24 years of teaching at Mundelein High School and 35 total years of teaching. 

   Harding was always attracted to math even from a young age. “I was always good at it when I was a kid, and always felt like I had a knack for explaining it to people,” Harding said. He also explained how much he enjoyed his high school experience, so it made him excited to be a part of it again. 

   Harding first came to MHS to coach the Girls’ Basketball team and then started teaching math the following year. Harding ended up coaching the Girls’ Basketball team for 14 years, and the football team for 10 years. He said that being able to coach sports was another benefit that came along with teaching high school.

   On top of coaching sports, Harding has also been involved in the MHS Theater program for the last eight years, and still wants to continue his involvement with the theater program even after retirement. 

   “I am ready to walk away from teaching, but I’m not ready to walk away from all the great things that happened with kids. I love the relationships with kids, I love the interactions, and I think that will be much harder to leave,” Harding expressed. He plans to take up opportunities that will keep him involved with the students of Mundelein, including theater. 

   Harding overall has mixed feelings about retiring. “I feel relieved. I’ve done this for 35 years, and at some point you know it’s time to go. I just want to leave this feeling like I’m in a position of still doing a really good job walking away from it,” Harding stated. However, he is aware of how much his life will change after no longer teaching.

   One thing that Harding is especially appreciative of here at Mundelein is the leadership team. “The leadership team here has been very receptive to new ideas. I’m certainly out there living on the edge of the world in terms of some grading practices and teaching methods,” Harding said. Yet when he brought new ideas to the leadership team, they never rejected them; they instead wanted to know more about the ideas. This allowed Harding to “grow in some areas and encouraged [him] to continue looking and researching into what the best practices are and things that we could do to improve what’s happening in schools.”

   After retiring, Harding wants to leave behind an impactful legacy. 

   “What’s always been the most rewarding part of this job is seeing kids years later. Away from the drudgery of what school does, and knowing that you have had some impact,” Harding said. He especially loves when he sees students many years later and they tell him how they are in a good place because of the way he taught them to think. 

   “I like to think that kids walk away from here feeling like they got more than math, and that’s so hard to quantify. But I think more than anything I want people to realize that I cared for what was great for kids,” Harding expressed.

   Harding does leave an impact on his students, according to his past student, Mia Dunaway. Dunaway had Harding for her freshman year Algebra 1 class, two years ago. She still remembers his distinct teaching style.

   “The way that he had us test was by using a system in which he would check our answers before we turned in the test, meaning that we would get multiple tries to answer a question,” Dunaway explained. This is because Harding believes that, “math doesn’t have to be right on the first try because nothing is perfect.” Dunaway describes this system as unique compared to her previous math classes.

   Dunaway described Harding’s lasting impact on her as a student. “He set me up by giving me more confidence, he was always there to encourage me and tell me that I could do it even if it wasn’t right on the first try. He pushed me to be in a higher level math class so that was great,” Dunaway said. 

   If Dunaway could say one last thing to Harding before he retires it would be, “thank you. . .for being a teacher that really cared about our learning and not just our grades.”