After 22 years at Mac, Barber retires at semester’s end

Veteran history teacher leaves behind reputation for teaching students to think for themselves, plans to spend time working on motorcycles, taking pictures

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Zahraa Alogaili

History teacher Oakley Barber often dressed up in festive holiday attire during fall semester finals week. Perhaps his smile was a bit wider heading into a winter break that included his retirement from teaching and a chance to spend more time on his hobbies: motorcycles and photography.

Zahraa Alogaili, staff reporter

The spring semester will begin at Mac without Mr. Oakley Barber. After teaching generations of students throughout his 22 years of service, Barber retired at the end of the fall semester.

His teaching made a great impact on his students as he went in depth regarding issues throughout history and made sure to present both sides of the story.

“I like that his class gave me a better understanding of both sides of history,” senior Audrey Racine said. “He would show us videos of both ends and make sure that we understood both sides and why there was a conflict. He also led with a lecture which was a different style of learning that I was not used to with [a] history teacher, he was a lot more interactive and visual.”

In his young adulthood, Barber had no interest in education. But after going to college at the age of 30 he decided that school could be fun. He discovered how exciting and interesting it was to use his mind and to sort things out. He pursued a graduate degree in history. But then he needed a job.

“[I thought,] ‘OK if I was a teacher, I get to go to school every day and teach the things I’m interested in,’” Barber said, “so teaching me was a very natural choice.”

He definitely made an impact on my education. I think I just grew as a person and became more mature after taking his class.”

— senior Leck Gomez

One of Barber’s favorite moments as a teacher occurred when his students would take over the learning environment — when they learned because they were motivated and used that excitement to teach their peers.

“It was really exciting to me when people actually just wanted to learn and students learned from each other,” Barber said. “Most people going through high school nowadays view it as a ticket to be punched. They don’t have any excitement to learn anymore.”

Barber’s students describe him as a teacher that helped them push their limits and expand their set of skills. Although they may have  found it challenging at first, his methods helped influence them throughout the rest of their high school careers.

“My favorite memory in his class was the Socratic seminars that we would do,” senior Leck Gomez said. “We got to hear a lot of people’s opinions and also be able to state mine. At times, we would get [into] arguments, which were fun.”

During online learning, Barber ensured his students still learned something from his class with a very straightforward curriculum.

“Although class was over Zoom and I was new to the online learning style, Mr. Barber made U.S. history still interesting and easy to learn,” senior Nahla Wilson said.

At the March 2019 Teachers and Tiaras pageant to raise money for the cinematic arts program, Oakley Barber performs “The One That Got Away” by Tom Waits. “It was overall a good experience because it was a chance to laugh at myself and… do something silly and not worry about what people thought,” Barber said. (Elisha Scott)

Barber had been thinking about retirement for a while to pursue his side quests as a photographer and a motorcycle mechanic. He had been doing both previously on the side but he figured it’s time to make a bigger commitment.

“I have a motorcycle shop that I plan to work full time in now,” Barber said. “I also do a lot of film photography, so I will be loading in my cameras and traveling around the west mostly. The majority of my time will hopefully be spent taking pictures and being in the dark room.”

Regardless of Barber’s whereabouts this semester, his impact on his students won’t go unnoticed for years to come.

“He definitely made an impact on my education because he taught me really important things that were not just school wise, but also [about what] well rounded people in this country should know about,” Gomez said. “And Ithink I just grew as a person and became more mature after taking his class.”