Retiree Returns To Teaching Roots



College mathematics textbooks were given away as prizes to the top students at the conclusion of Ted Corley's second-semester math class. The students relished them.

It is a situation that is probably too good to be true for most teachers. Then again, Corley isn't a normal math teacher. Nor were his students normal math students.


Ted Corley

Corley spent the spring semester of 2007 teaching calculus at the University of Malawi in the small sub-Saharan African country west of Tanzania and Mozambique.

He went in connection with the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help, a Scottsdale-based foundation that sends American teachers to promote education in some of the world's poorest countries.

Corley, who moved to Payson three years ago after teaching math at the high school, junior college and university levels for 35 years in the Valley, said he received an e-mail from IFESH while he was a part-time instructor at Glendale Community College.

"I applied late but they grabbed me up because they needed math teachers," he said.

The 2,000-student university was similar in many ways to American colleges, albeit a bit less technologically advanced, Corley said.

"I started teaching more than 30 years ago with chalk and a chalkboard and no calculators and that's what I went back to," he said.

"In many ways the students were just like students in the U.S. They would wait until the day before the test and line up outside of my office."

Corley said the experience taught him that American students often take for granted the freedom they have to receive an education. The class he taught in Africa only had 20 textbooks available for a class of 100 students.

After returning home in June, Corley decided to seek out a way to even out the student-to-textbook disparity.

A textbook company that was going to dispose of out-of-date calculus texts has agreed to give them to Corley.

He said he is planning a return trip to Malawi within the next couple of months to see to it that the texts are delivered to the university.

"Despite the level of poverty, they love their country," he said. "They welcome you and the help you bring."


Name: Ted Corley

Hometown: Beaver, Okla.

Occupation: Retired math teacher

When did you move to Payson and what brought you here? I moved here about three years ago for family and the climate.

What's the biggest risk you've taken recently? Living in Africa--if you're going to learn a place, you have to live there.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given? My dad told me, "Once you start something you don't quit, you finish."

What are three things you want people to know about you? That I think teaching is fun, friends and family are most important to me and that it was a real learning experience looking back at America.

When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up? From the time I was an eighth-grader, I knew I wanted to be a math teacher.


Book: "Lord of the Rings"

Song: "Shower the People" by James Taylor

Movie: "Paint Your Wagon" with Clint Eastwood

Food: I like it all.

Sport to watch: College basketball

Vacation spot: Payson

Recreational activity: Hiking, quail hunting or fishing.

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