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Alumni Spotlight: Tyler Lininger (MAT)

Furman Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) alumni and civics teacher at Hillcrest High School, Tyler Lininger, sits with the Graduate Studies Department to discuss how Furman’s MAT program prepared him for his teaching career. 


What led you into a career in teaching?

As an undergrad, I studied history and political science and graduated from Furman University in 2021. I did not know exactly what I wanted to do during my senior year, but I was eventually directed towards the MAT program. It was a no-brainer to start that program because it is only one year to earn a master’s degree, and it is a good bang for your buck. There is a lot of work, but it was rewarding by the end, and the trials and tribulations of that program led me to where I am today. 


You said you did not know if you wanted to be a teacher, what made you realize you wanted to teach?

At first, I thought I wanted to go into law, but I decided that was not for me because I prefer to talk about and explore history and politics in general. I began falling more in love with history the more I kept reading, and I enjoy talking about those content areas with people to discuss what’s going on. During college, my roommate and I would get on tangents analyzing history and then would realize two hours have gone by. So, if I can do that, then I could talk about history in a two hour class period. I figured I should try my hand in teaching to see if I could be interesting enough to a bunch of pea brain teenagers and do good work in that area. 


How do you think the Furman MAT program benefited you for your career?

As an undergrad in history and politics, I only took one education related course. But the purpose of the MAT is to get an intense background in teaching, and it was a great way to absorb everything I missed. We spent the summer and the fall doing actual classwork, but it means nothing unless you actually get into a classroom because you have no idea what you’re going to face from a day to day basis. 

The second half of the fall and the spring was arguably the most important part of the program because we get to have classroom experience. You learn to be quick on your feet. You have to be quick-witted, have an extra cup of coffee ready, and be personable enough to hold students’ attention. Once you get that experience and work with a veteran teacher, it all falls into place naturally. You get the confidence and willpower to show up day after day and grind through whatever problems you may face, and you always have to remember tomorrow is a new day – a clean slate for you and the students. 


What was your favorite class in the MIT program and why? 

One of my favorite classes was our actual methods and social studies because it was just the three social studies students and we had hands-on feedback. How you deliver on that content is both engaging and informative, but you also have to touch on the standards of using technology as well as different student experiences, learning abilities, engagement levels, and theories. It’s a matter of making sure the kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and writing learners perform the same. 


How would you describe your teaching style? And how did the MAT program play a role in developing your strengths and approach to teaching? 

My teaching style is direct. I do direct instruction as a traditional lecture, but I also provide fun, creative assignments. For example, I assigned a project earlier in the year where I had my students design their own political party. The purpose was not for me to talk about political issues. My job was to help students form their own political thoughts and responsibilities. The students had to make a slideshow with pictures, an explanation of their opinion, and why they held that opinion.  


Is there anything you learned through MAT that you apply to the classroom on a daily basis?

Yes, a lot of it revolves around working with different age groups and intelligence levels. Some students have a personalized education plan due to learning disabilities or impediments, so you have to be prepared to make sure these kids understand the material. On the other hand, some students are just going to get the information and are going to go with the flow. I have the responsibility of making sure I am balancing the individual needs of the students and making sure they are in a position to succeed. 


What role did mentorship play during your graduate experience? And how has that benefited you for your career? 

Dr. Lipscomb was nothing but supportive and encouraging the entire time. We’d have formal and informal observations throughout the entire experience, which always highlighted where we were succeeding and what we could capitalize on. The positive reinforcement was huge for keeping us motivated. Through working on day to day tasks and having conferences with the teacher you’re paired with, having support from Furman is helpful. Plus, the teacher I was paired with at Hillcrest High was absolutely wonderful and was nothing but supportive and encouraging. She welcomed a lot of my ideas and gave me free roam over the class. It was awesome to have someone let me build my confidence in the classroom. 


Is there anything you wish you would have done differently during grad school? And for those who are considering a career in teaching, what advice do you have for them?

There was an uncertainty of what I wanted to do, and I questioned whether I was on the right path, so if I had been more committed from the beginning, it would have been less stressful. That was just a maturity process though, which everyone goes through. But once I got through the winter, I knew I was on the right track. 

In terms of advice for prospective students or current students hoping to pursue a career in teaching, I would say, “Don’t be afraid.” If you can get through it, you can do anything. It’s tough, and it can be exhausting, but if you are resilient and find confidence in yourself, then you can do anything. Teaching is a beautiful, difficult, and rewarding trade. There’s a reason not many people go into it or may try it and jump out. But having done this, the respect I have for teachers, higher educators, and professionals is much greater than I had even in college. 

Nothing is easy in life. Nothing will be as rewarding as what you get back on a daily basis to see a student learn about a content area you are passionate about. To see a student fully understand something and explain to someone else and then be excited to learn and share your passion is immensely rewarding. It’s also rewarding to see tiny, gung-ho creatures grow up to become full adults. There are not many careers where you get to literally be a part of shaping the next generation where you get to help people in disadvantaged communities, lower education levels, or horrible life circumstances overcome every single one of these issues. 


What is the most challenging aspect of your career?

Teenagers. You never know what a kid is going to do or what they go home to. You never know what they’re going to bring to school the next day. You don’t know what they’re facing. Sometimes, you don’t have to know, and sometimes they tell you, even if you don’t want to know. The most difficult part is the chaos of the teenage mind and the behavior they may show. 


Is there something you found to be unexpected about your career you didn’t necessarily think about during grad school?

The level of support from administration was unexpected. South Carolina is a state that is in dire need of teachers and schools, so to walk in as a first year teacher and be greatly supported by administration is awesome. They ask if I need any resources or someone in the class and are always checking in. There’s an overwhelming amount of support from people who care about you and want you to succeed, and they understand that your success means success for your students. It’s nice to know you’re not alone.



Furman University’s Master of Arts in Teaching program is equipped with the education, resources, and connections to make you an outstanding teacher in the state. Furman’s MAT program is now accepting applications for those who wish to enroll. For more information, click HERE.