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71-Year-Old Graduate Using Master’s Degree to Serve His Community As A Teacher

The 71-year-old graduate who made headlines early this month after going back to school to become a teacher is already putting his degree to good use.

Leroy Harley has worked many jobs throughout his life. But it took 69 years for the South Carolina native to realize his true passion for teaching. Now with his master’s degree from the University of South Carolina’s Transition to Teaching program, Harley is serving his local community in more ways than one.

“It came to a full head after I moved back to South Carolina to be with my mother, who was ailing,” Harley told Good Morning America. “And she started doing well, so it was like, I’ll either sit here on the porch or I gotta do something.”

After he started helping his nieces and nephews with their homework, Harley realized how much he enjoyed helping children. He enrolled in the teaching program in 2020 and almost had his dreams derailed after catching COVID-19.

But after a short hiatus, Harley returned to the school to finish his coursework. He currently works as an elementary teacher’s assistant in special education, art and keyboarding, and started a drama club for students.

“It’s just a great place to wake up to go to, to be there with them,” Harley said.

George Roy, a former public school teacher-turned-professor and principal investigator of the Carolina Transition to Teaching, applauded Harley for making it through the program aimed at diversifying the teacher’s workforce.

“One of the things that I know Mr. Harley said in the past to me is that he’s going to teach for a while, and so we’re invested in him as he invested in us,” Roy said.

“For the next three years, we have faculty who will support him and help think about the challenges of an early career teacher because, as we know, there are a multitude of challenges that impact the profession. And so our goal is to really take those experiences that he had, and really continue to support them as we go forward.”

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