Good Talk: Mr. Bishop

He might be the only teacher outside of the English Department who loves Moby-Dick!

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Good Talk: Mr. Bishop

photo by Evan Riley

photo by Evan Riley

photo by Evan Riley

Madelynn Stibbard, Head Interviewer

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How long have you been teaching here at NA?

I have been teaching here for 18 years. I taught one year at Schenley High School in the city. It no longer exists. It has changed names.

Have you always lived in Pennsylvania?

No, I grew up in Maryland, just outside of D.C. in a place called Silver Spring. I then went to college at Pitt and got my job at Schenley.

Was it scary starting to work here? Was it hard being a minority?

Yes, yes it was. I have always been relatively conscientious about what I do and there’s a certain level of perfectionism, and so I always wanted to be good. I realized quickly that in this environment the students are very motivated, and the parents, staff, and the administrators expect a lot — so this environment really brings out the best in teachers — especially the people who naturally want to do a really good job. So, yeah, I was nervous, and even to this day I get nervous sometimes when I get up in front of the class. Being a minority has definitely had its challenges. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have faculty that I can always go to and share some of my experiences and struggles. Then I also realize that I am the only African American teacher, so sometimes in certain settings I become kind of the voice for the group and I don’t necessarily want to be in that role.  I just want to be a person or a teacher.

What are your thoughts about diversity at North Allegheny?

I’m really encouraged by the increasing diversity in the student population. It’s become much more diverse in my eighteen years of teaching. But I don’t see the diversity increasing amongst the faculty and the administration, so that is something that I am concerned about.

What is your favorite part of the curriculum to teach? Least favorite?

I’d say the Constitution or the political parties. I really like to get into the Bill of Rights, and I always get good discussions on things like gun control and capital punishment and free speech. My least favorite is probably Congress. It’s hard to make how a bill becomes a law interesting, but we just have to plow through it because it’s an important part of the curriculum.

If you could change any part of the government system, what would you change?

Gerrymandering for sure, and I would make some adjustments to the Electoral College. I wouldn’t necessarily get rid of it, but I think I would try to get the states on board to modify it so that it is more proportional and it more closely reflects the will of the popular vote.

If you could meet any President of the United States, who would it be and why?

I would say Thomas Jefferson or Abe Lincoln. I would want to talk to Thomas Jefferson just to get his honest perspective on the world that he lived in and how he approached writing the Declaration of Independence while also very publicly acknowledging the deficiencies that the country had — and he had — in terms of human rights, especially regarding slavery. As for Lincoln, I would just want to know what it was like to preside over a country in a civil war — and also how he personally handled the stress and the reality that basically 700,000 Americans were dead as a result of some of the decisions that he made — so I would really like to know how he handled that.

If you could witness a moment in history, which one would you choose?

It probably sounds morbid, but I would want to witness the Civil War. Not to see the carnage and the death, but I am just dumbfounded by how people even survived. How do you live through that? How do people in the South whose lives had been completely upended — and in some cases destroyed — find the strength to keep going and to survive?  I would want to somehow observe that and see the human resolve and how powerful it can truly be.

Have you visited any historical monuments?

Not too many. I have been to Philadelphia and seen the Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin’s print shop, and the outside of Independence Hall — we got there too late on the day we were planning to go in. I’ve toured the Capitol and the Supreme Court. When I was a little kid, my mom actually worked for the federal government, so we used to go on tours of the White House. I’ve gone to Washington’s home, and I’ve gone to Monticello, so that’s the extent. My favorite places were probably Mt. Vernon and Monticello.

What do you like to do for fun outside of school?

First and foremost is spending time with my family. I like to fish walleye on the Allegheny River, I like to play basketball, and I like music.

What is your favorite movie/tv show, novel, and music genre?

My favorite music is R&B and soul. My favorite movie is actually The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly–it’s a Clint Eastwood western film, and it’s probably four hours long. I currently do not have a favorite tv show, but of all time, Seinfeld. I was a Seinfeld fanatic for a lot of years. My favorite novel is To Kill a Mockingbird, and Moby Dick is way up on my list. I have to read it again, but it was the book that spurred my genuine appreciation for literature.

Do you have a bucket list?

No, I don’t. At this point in my life, it seems so far down the road that I haven’t really thought about it. I do want to go to Africa. I don’t know which country/countries, but that is definitely something I want to do. I haven’t really traveled outside of the country except for resorts, so I would definitely be interested in going on a cultural vacation overseas.