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Teaching The Next Generation, From Africa To Montgomery County

It was in the middle of Africa, while teaching English to children in Chad’s capital city and in a refugee camp in Darfur, that Gregory Wall ’19 found his calling. Once back in the United States, he worked in the restaurant business and enrolled in Montgomery College. The now 33-year-old is graduating this spring, on his way to a four-year school, and working as a teacher at an early school in Rockville, where he is affectionately known as Mr. Greg.

Gregory Wall ’19 serves as director of the school age program at Georgetown Hill at Woodley Gardens

Wall had dreamed about becoming a football player, but a high school knee injury drove him to sports medicine instead. “I went to college for my first semester, really didn’t like it, and ended up going to Africa with my dad [then United States ambassador to Chad]. It was a fascinating experience and it brought me to what I am doing today,” he said. Wall took trips with his father to the refugee camps in Darfur during the genocide in Sudan. “They gave me a big chalkboard under a tent and a piece of chalk and said: ‘Teach them something.’ I had kids from five to 18 years of age. They really struck some heartstrings and made me want to come back and give back to my community and to the kids in my area.”

Back in Washington, D.C., Wall worked at several restaurants, one of which promoted him to the position of general manager. He had started taking early childhood education classes at Montgomery College, but he could not handle a full load due to his work demands. “I realized I was kind of getting stagnant in the hospitality business and having to take fewer classes so I could support myself. I remember sitting in the office one night, counting the funds at 1 a.m., my wife was home pregnant, and I said: ‘I can’t do this, if I continue down this path I am going to be stuck here.’”

Early childhood is great because it’s the first step in the pyramid, it’s the base. They are little sponges, they absorb everything, and they look at you with such wonderment every day

Wall immediately went back to being a server and enrolled full time at MC. Soon after, he landed a job at a local school, Georgetown Hill at Woodley Gardens, as the director of the school age program and as a music teacher for toddlers and preschoolers. Wall’s first professor at MC became an unofficial counselor to him, helped advise him regarding his next steps and deciding which age group to focus on. “Early childhood is great because it’s the first step in the pyramid, it’s the base. They are little sponges, they absorb everything, and they look at you with such wonderment every day,” Wall said. “It’s nice, it’s fun, it’s a challenge.”

Mr. Greg, as he is called, teaches music to the Pre-K class

Due to his own experience, Wall believes studying early childhood education while working in the field is priceless. “I always suggest people try to get jobs in education to help them understand the field. I got a tip from a professor, for example, that I use now every day at work,” Wall said. “I did appreciate the 90-hour observation we had to do but none of it was nearly as helpful as working in education while you’re taking classes.”

Wall is looking forward to attending commencement this spring, when he will get his associate of arts in teaching, and to starting at Towson University in the fall to pursue his bachelor’s degree. His education and major classes at Montgomery College were phenomenal, he said, and professors were helpful and available. “They realize they’re training the next group of colleagues so it’s not a bad thing to keep those doors open to network and help each other out if you need it.”

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