Michael McAvoy, a former history teacher at Bel Air and Edgewood high schools known for his unorthodox classes and methods, died Friday of a heart attack, according to sources.
McAvoy taught Advanced Placement European History, and mixed a demanding workload with entertaining lectures and activities. He retired from teaching in June after 36-1/2 years of service in Harford County, according to a Harford County Public Schools resolution presented last month.
McAvoy taught at Edgewood High School from 1975 to 1995 and at Bel Air from 1995 until his retirement, according to material provided by Harford County Public Schools. Among his other activities, he was president and commanding officer of the 84th Highlanders, an American Revolution re-enactment group, and was coach of the Edgewood track and cross country teams from 1976 to 1982. He held a Bachelor of Science degree in History and Economics from Mount Saint Mary’s College and a master’s degree in Education from Towson University.
He is survived by his wife, Kathy, two children, two grandchildren, and a number of other close family members. A viewing is scheduled for today, Monday, at Schimunek Funeral Home in Bel Air from 3 to 7 p.m. A funeral mass is set for Tuesday at 9 a.m. at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Hickory, with internment to follow at St. John’s Cemetery in Ellicott City.
Remembrances of McAvoy from several students and colleagues follow. Others are encouraged to leave their memories in the comments below.
From Mark Elloff, Dagger movie columnist and BAHS Class of 2000:
McAvoy was a teacher that had the rare combination of caring deeply both about his students and the lessons he taught. His class was the only one I ever remember being mad that I would miss when I was sick. He had a unique ability to lecture a group of 15-year-olds for an entire class period while still maintaining their interest. Whether he was demonstrating jousting using his desk chair or threatening to throw someone out of the classroom for displaying “communist tendencies,” he certainly knew how to entertain. It has been 14 years since I took his class and I still remember him as one of the best teachers I ever had.
From Joseph Voskuhl, former BAHS principal:
Mike was a teacher totally devoted, not only to his students, but to making Bel Air High School a place that all students felt welcomed.
From Paul Bowden, BAHS drama teacher:
His unique personality made him one of those “fixtures” of the BAHS faculty that everyone knew, liked and remembered… even after he had retired. He taught students as well as his fellow teachers—and was always here for the students…that’s what this job is really about.
From Carlin Cook, BAHS Class of 2000:
It is incredibly sad to hear of the passing of a teacher who was as passionate and dedicated as Mr. McAvoy.
I was enrolled in his AP European History class while at Bel Air High School and found myself enthralled with the way he taught the subject. His proclivity for quirky stories related to historical events were always my favorite moments of any given class period. His love of what he taught was something I could see on a daily basis and that is what I respected most about him.
So many teachers carry on with their jobs with the simple purpose of getting information out to students. But Mr. McAvoy was different. He was genuinely excited about European history and wished to pass that same excitement on. As is common with students at the high school level, many found history boring. But for students like myself, who have always found interest in the topic, Mr. McAvoy made a difference.
On a few occasions I would stay after school to go over material for upcoming tests. Mr. McAvoy would sit behind his desk and ask me questions, saying “now this is something that COULD be on the test,” which was often followed by a long pause to clearly let me know it would, in fact, be on that test. Pulling no punches, I will admit, his class came with a tremendous workload, which many students disliked. I myself became overwhelmed from time to time. But now, as I have completed undergraduate college and stand poised to earn a master’s degree, I realize just how well Mr. McAvoy prepared me to achieve what I have.
I’ve had many teachers throughout my life and many that I can’t even remember. But Mr. McAvoy is one that had a great impact on my life and one that I will always remember.
From McAvoy’s obituary with Schimunek Funeral Home in Bel Air:
Michael J. McAvoy
On December 2, 2011 Michael J. “Mike” McAvoy passed away. He was the beloved husband of Kathy McAvoy (nee Conn); devoted father of Michelle Novak and her husband Chris, and Patrick McAvoy; loving grandfather of Emma and Jack; dear brother of Lori Lease and her husband Charlie, and Joe McAvoy and his wife Kathi; lovng uncle of Alex and Jessica McAvoy, and Charles M. and Timothy Lease.
Relatives and friends are invited to visit at Schimunek Funeral Home of Bel Air Inc. 610 W. MacPhail Rd. (at Rt 24) on Sunday from 2-4 and 6-8 PM and Monday from 3-7PM. A funeral mass will be celebrated on Tuesday at 9:00 AM at St. Ignatius Catholic Church (Hickory). Interment will follow at St. John’s Cemetery (Ellicott City, MD). In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to Attn: Frank Sneeringer, Director of Development, Mount St. Mary’s University, 16300 Old Emmitsburg Rd. Emmitsburg, MD 21727. www.schimunekfuneralhomes.com
Dagger Education Editor Cindy Mumby contributed reporting to this story.