MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – He left what could have been a lucrative career as an industrial engineer to pursue a career as a math teacher because he wanted to make an impact in the lives of students.

Moultrie Middle School’s Matthew Lee is our Cool School Teacher of the week.  

When it all adds up, the sum of his impact continues to multiply. “I try to make it as fun as possible,” said Lee.

Fun and creative learning form the perfect equation in Mr. Matthew Lee’s sixth-grade math class at Moultrie Middle School. I’ve been teaching five years now,” he said. “I went to Clemson for industrial engineering.  I decided that wasn’t really the path I wanted to go, instead, I decided to take an alternate route into education.”  

Lee worked as an engineer and made a good salary. “Not for me. Not enough interaction with people.  Kids are awesome, most of the time. I grew up volunteering at schools. Thought it was a good opportunity to give it a shot, try it out,” he said.

Lee was recruited by Teach for America.  “That’s how I got into education through Teach for America.  They do a program where they hire students across the country and place them in certain areas.  I got placed in Charleston county.  I taught in West Ashley, served my two-year commitment, and came here.”

Lee says he wanted to come back to his hometown of Mount Pleasant to make a difference.  “I actually went to Moultrie here from 2006 to 2009, so it’s fun to be back in the community that I grew up in and impact that as well.  Moultrie has been awesome.  It’s been a great experience. Once you figure it out. It is an awesome job to come to, great hours, great chance to be with kids,” he said.

Lee describes his teaching style as interactive.  He finds creative ways to keep his students moving while learning math through projects.  

“He makes learning incredibly fun here at Moultrie Middle School. I’ve been in Mr. Lee’s class multiple times, and it’s always laughing and a good time, which you don’t expect to see in a math classroom.  He makes kids engaged and excited to come to class with material that’s not normally exciting, so that is a true testament to him, and the relationship he’s been able to build with kids to make them engaged in his class to come in here and get excited about it,” said Principal Chas Coker.

“He’s amazing, and he makes math really fun. In fourth and fifth grades, I didn’t get good grades in math, and now I have a 98 in math.  He makes everything a lot of fun. Probably won’t forget him.  He’s been the best math teacher I ever had,” said sixth-grade student Josh Schaap.

As for taking a major pay cut, Mr. Lee says he knows without a doubt he made the right choice.

“No one is in education to get wealthy. The time off is enough for me,” said Lee.  

Principal Coker says, “I think that’s incredible. It’s a real testament to him and real testament to the teaching profession, that it’s not only just about the dollars you bring home, but the impact you make on the community.  Mr. Lee is a testament to that, just wanting to put an impact on kids and the community around him. Moultrie middle school would not be the same without Mr. Lee.”

Lee says, “Being a teacher means impacting lives. I still keep in contact with a lot of my teachers. They’re actually here still, which is kind of crazy, so impacting lives, showing them a different way of doing things, or a different way of thinking.”  Sixth-grade student Albany Magwood says, “Well instead of doing regular math, he makes it more fun and understanding.  He’s the best teacher and favorite teacher I ever had.”

While the variables of life remain uncertain when it all adds up, Mr. Lee says he’s found the perfect formula for teaching longevity and plans to make a lifetime commitment.  

“I hope so forever. I would love to be at Moultrie until I retire, some thirty to forty years from now.  We’ll see.”

If you would like to nominate a Cool School or educator, send an email to Octavia Mitchell at omitchell@wcbd.com.