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Popular math teacher juggles many roles

He's studied business and history, and he's worked for a furniture company, but after teaching stints at Taylor and Westlake, Scott Pass has become a Mac mainstay

Mr.+Pass+and+rising+senior+Will+Critendon+each+juggle+five+balls+simultaneously.+Critendon+and+Pass+practice+their+skills+out+in+the+math+hall+as+a+part+of+Juggling+Club%2C+a+weekly+club+held+on+Thursdays+helping+kids+learn+how+and+improve+their+juggling+skills.+%E2%80%9CI%E2%80%99ve+been+juggling+for+a+couple+years+now%2C%E2%80%9D+Critendon+said.+%E2%80%9CThe+biggest+piece+of+advice+I+can+give+to+beginners+is+just+to+keep+practicing+even+when+it+gets+frustrating.%E2%80%9D+Photo+by+Tomas+Marrero.
Mr. Pass and rising senior Will Critendon each juggle five balls simultaneously. Critendon and Pass practice their skills out in the math hall as a part of Juggling Club, a weekly club held on Thursdays helping kids learn how and improve their juggling skills. “I’ve been juggling for a couple years now,” Critendon said. “The biggest piece of advice I can give to beginners is just to keep practicing even when it gets frustrating.” Photo by Tomas Marrero.

Mr. Pass and rising senior Will Critendon each juggle five balls simultaneously. Critendon and Pass practice their skills out in the math hall as a part of Juggling Club, a weekly club held on Thursdays helping kids learn how and improve their juggling skills. “I’ve been juggling for a couple years now,” Critendon said. “The biggest piece of advice I can give to beginners is just to keep practicing even when it gets frustrating.” Photo by Tomas Marrero.

Tomas Marrero

Tomas Marrero

Mr. Pass and rising senior Will Critendon each juggle five balls simultaneously. Critendon and Pass practice their skills out in the math hall as a part of Juggling Club, a weekly club held on Thursdays helping kids learn how and improve their juggling skills. “I’ve been juggling for a couple years now,” Critendon said. “The biggest piece of advice I can give to beginners is just to keep practicing even when it gets frustrating.” Photo by Tomas Marrero.

Janssen Transier, Mac Photojournalism

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During the fall of 1985, in the middle of the first semester of his sophomore year, Scott Pass was considering switching his major.

There seems to be a real tolerance of what everyone wants to do as an individual. There’s a lot of interaction between kids that is … refreshing. It really doesn’t feel like there’s any real cliques here.”

— math teacher Scott Pass on what he likes about McCallum

Although he entered Southwestern University in Georgetown as an aspiring business major, the constant business classes were beginning to wear him down. He decided he wanted to change his major, but he was still struggling with the direction he wanted to go.

The turning point came when Pass took an “economics of immigration” class, where the professor taught a mix of history and economics, and Pass discovered that he enjoyed the history side of the class a lot more than the economics side. He graduated in the spring of 1987 with a degree in history.

Mr. Pass’s path from history major to McCallum math teacher was full of twists and turns, but he ended up settling in as a teacher at McCallum, where he’s been teaching for the last decade or so, and where both his kids graduated from high school.

Before he was a juggling precalculus teacher, he was a newly graduated history major, eager to face the world and enter the workforce. His first job after college was in manufacturing at a furniture company, using some of what he learned during the business side of his education. After a year or so he decided it wasn’t for him, and after considering what he wanted to do for a few months, he decided the best path for him was going back to school to get a degree in education and math.


Rising senior Will Critendon juggles torches after school during Mr. Scott Pass’s Juggling Club on Oct. 13. The club meets every Thursday after school and is open to beginners as well as experienced jugglers. “I’ve fringed the hair on
my arms a lot because the wind will blow the flames and that can mess you up,” Critendon said. “Like with a match, if you hold it upside down it would burn you, but as long as you hold the clubs away from you once you get going it’s not that bad.” Photo by Janssen Transier.

His first teaching job was actually at McCallum, doing his student teaching with a geometry teacher. He secured his first full-time teaching job at a school in Taylor. He commuted every day from Austin and taught on-level geometry. It was a long drive, but Pass said it was worth it because he got to teach a wide variety of students. 

From there, he took a job at Westlake, which was a big change after teaching in Taylor for a few years. “It was very…homogenous, a lot of the same,” Pass said.

He commuted from central Austin to Westlake every day, and after 10 years it began to take a toll.

“It was difficult because I like to be involved and go to games and that takes a lot of time away from my family,” Pass said.

He finally decided it was time to move on when his daughter graduated from Lamar Middle School and chose to go to McCallum instead of Westlake.

If you work hard at [something then] you’ll improve, and that’s what juggling is, that’s what math is, and really that’s what life is.”

— math teacher Scott Pass

“I sort of assumed that my kids would come with me to Westlake, but they didn’t, so I thought, ‘Why am I commuting there every day and dealing with all that?’” Pass said. “My family wasn’t committed, so I wasn’t.”

His time at Westlake showed him that he liked being in the classroom and teaching more than anything else he’d done so far, so he started looking around for jobs at high schools around Austin.

“I really wanted to come to McCallum because my kids had gone there, and I knew it was the coolest school in Austin,” said Pass who eventually joined the Mac math department.

“One thing I have noticed that’s unique about McCallum is there’s such a diversity of kids. … There seems to be a real tolerance of what everyone wants to do as an individual. There’s a lot of interaction between kids that is … refreshing. It really doesn’t feel like there’s any real cliques here. … For instance, I love the Fine Arts Academy, but I never get the feeling that they are above anyone. Everyone gets the same treatment and the same education.”

Mr.Pass tries to teach every student who comes into his class to juggle.

“He’s tried to teach me a couple times, I’m still learning though” junior Jacqueline McLellan said. “ Mr, Pass has a lot of catch phrases, like he’ll always tell us that he’s bad at math, or he’ll tell this really long drawn out story but at the end somehow connect it back to math.”

Some might see juggling as a distraction from math, but Pass says the two are actually quite similar.

“Juggling is a lot like teaching math. You can say you understand math, but until you can stand up there and do it, do you [really understand it]? And juggling is a lot like that. … I think what’s important about it is that if you work hard at [something then] you’ll improve, and that’s what juggling is, that’s what math is, and really that’s what life is.”

1 Comment

One Response to “Popular math teacher juggles many roles”

  1. Derek on June 30th, 2018 1:32 pm

    I’m glad to see Scott Pass getting recognized for the outstanding person he has been for many years.

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Popular math teacher juggles many roles