Former George Wythe student comes back to teach math after graduating college at 18

Published: May. 31, 2022 at 8:40 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - When 18-year-old Harold Aquino graduated high school in April 2021, he set a goal for himself to come right back to George Wythe High School to teach after attending college.

Aquino says many were skeptical that he would achieve his goal so quickly, but coming from an 18-year-old who graduated with over a 5.0 G.P.A., they weren’t too surprised when he did.

“It’s definitely an interesting experience, just switching from seeing these students as my peers while I was in high school to now being my students,” Aquino laughed.

Thanks to dual enrollment courses, Aquino went from ending his senior year at Wythe to finishing his senior year at VCU just a few weeks ago. While he finished up a full course load during the spring semester, Aquino also became a long-term substitute teacher at Geroge Wythe teaching calculus.

“My experience at VCU, if anything, was quite brief. I majored in mathematics and secondary teacher prep. I definitely feel like I got a bit of the college experience,” Aquino said.

Since becoming a teacher, Aquino says the most rewarding part is watching the material click with his students.

“There are multiple instances where I have students ask what exactly is happening there, and then I explain it for a brief moment, and they instantly get it and get right back to the work,” Aquino said. “It’s a very exciting moment for me.”

George Wythe Mathematics Department Head Kakim Fung was Aquino’s mentor while a senior at George Wythe. He also helped pay for Aquino’s dual enrollment courses. Even though it’s Aquino’s first year as a teacher, Fung says he’s inspired by Aquino’s teaching style.

“Whenever I see him teach, I can see a little bit of myself, but at the same time, there are so many things he’s done with his students that I’ve never seen before,” said Fung. “It’s very awesome when he can connect to peers so well simply because they have a very strong share experience. After all, he’s 18, and they’re 18.”

Aquino says he could have gone anywhere after graduating, but he has a strong connection to George Wythe and believes he will have the most impact teaching at his alma mater.

“This one specific school is my home,” Aquino said. “One of the goals that I set last time was to come back to George Wythe and teach mathematics, but also teach, possibly, dual enrollment courses so that way I’m giving students the same opportunities that were given to me while I was in high school. Basically, I’m paying back what George Wythe has given me so far.”

“Being an educator is an altruistic pursuit, and so it says something about his character to want to take all of his talents and direct them back into his community,” Geor Wythe Principal Riddick Parker said.

Come fall, Aquino will continue his career at Whythe as a full-time teacher at Wythe. He and Mr. Fung is planning to one day implement a dual enrollment program so that multiple George Wythe High School students can earn their college degree during high school. They hope to expand this program across all of RPS.

“I want my students to see me somewhat as a role model. For them to realize, even though I may be in high school, I can still achieve more than what people are expecting of me,” Aquino said.

Aquino plans to enroll in graduate-level math courses to become qualified to teach dual college enrollment math courses so that other students can study upper-level mathematics at the level of calculus and beyond at George Wythe High School.

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