His Life is His Lesson

AP social studies teacher Mr. Maddix has lived everywhere from England to Tokyo.


photo by Jess Daninhirsch

Living around the world has positively impacted the way social studies teacher Mr. Maddix works with his students.

Claire Majerac, Opinions Editor

It’s common for social studies classrooms to have world maps on their walls, but room 355 doesn’t need one. Social Studies teacher Andy Maddix, who focuses on AP Psychology, AP US Government, and Honors East Asian History, has a background that offers a virtual tour around the globe.

Throughout his life, Maddix has lived all over the world.

“I was born in England and before I was five years old, my family moved about four or five times,” he said.

Maddix originally lived in Birmingham, England. But after living in the UK, his father, a businessman, accepted a job just north of New York City.

“I lived in a place called Tarrytown for a while. I started elementary school at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School,” he said. “Then we moved to Yorktown, which is in Westchester County. I was there until I was ten.”

Then, the Maddix family moved, this time to Sydney, Australia, where they remained for five years until Maddix was 15 years old, when (you guessed it!) the Maddix family pulled up stakes once again.

“Then we moved to Tokyo, Japan. I was there for two years and then went back to Yorktown in New York to finish high school,” he said. 

Maddix’s father sold medical equipment for Fisher Scientific, which led to the Maddix family’s constant globe-trotting.

“He would really just take whichever new opportunity gave him a challenge, and we would go,” Maddix said.

As a result of all of his family’s moving, Mr. Maddix often repeated grades. For instance, he began fourth grade in September in New York, but when he arrived in Australia in January, he started fourth grade again.

“Rather than have a gap, my parents just decided, ‘Let’s just start you again in January rather than push you ahead a full year,’” he said.

Living in many different places around the world has taught the social studies teacher a few lessons. In fact, he attributes his interest in teaching history to his experiences abroad.

“I probably wouldn’t be teaching history and social studies if I hadn’t had [those] experiences before I was 18. That certainly influenced my life,” he said.

If I want to be happy in Tokyo, I can be happy in Tokyo. If I want to be happy in Pittsburgh, I can be happy in Pittsburgh”

— Mr. Maddix

In addition, Maddix’s unusual childhood taught him to value mindset and mentality above all else.

“Moving so much eventually taught me that I could be happy wherever I was. It really taught me a lesson that it’s not so much my environment, [but rather] my attitude,” he said.

“If I want to be happy in Tokyo, I can be happy in Tokyo. If I want to be happy in Pittsburgh, I can be happy in Pittsburgh,” he concluded.

As he reflects on his life, Maddix has a way of remembering the best in each of his former homes.

“I would say that I was glad that I went to elementary school in New York because I basically first got socialized into American culture. Australia was the best place to be as a 10-to-15-year-old because it hardly rained. You know, as a guy running around and playing sports, I was able to go outside every day,” he said. “To be a teenager in Tokyo was a really great experience. I could get on the subway and see a lot of the city and do a lot of things because it was very safe. But then being able to finish high school in New York and go to an American college, I’m thankful for that.”

Before he was an AP Psychology, AP US Government, and Honors East Asian History teacher at North Allegheny, Maddix was a math student at SUNY Oswego. It surprises his students to learn that, before college, he considered himself more math-brained than history-brained. Rather than focusing on what he enjoyed, he decided at the start of his college years to major in a subject that came naturally to him.

“I was always better at math than I was at the verbal and reading assessments [in high school],” he said, “but when it came to studying I enjoyed history the most.”

But if didn’t take long at SUNY Oswego for Maddix to realize that he was meant to follow his passion.

“The courses that I enjoyed the most, that I was more motivated to study for, were the history classes,” he said.

Even more surprising, Maddix was unaware of his interest in teaching until his senior year of undergraduate school. Knowing he needed a teaching certificate after undergrad, Maddix attended graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh and was subsequently hired at NASH.

“I think I’ve always enjoyed working with high school kids more than elementary school kids. I like working with kids that you can reason with more than with a kindergartener,” he said.

Through it all, the man at the front of Room 355 hasn’t lost sight of how he can incorporate his unique background into his role as a teacher. And when he learns of NASH students who are considering studying abroad in college, he doesn’t hesitate to approve. 

“I would definitely do it,” he said. “I think that seeing other cultures and other countries is a life-changing experience.”