After dropping out of college, Hayden Glatter found a passion for education.
‘Back-to-school' is a time of year that evokes nostalgia for many. For others, it can mark the beginning of an exciting, yet uncertain journey. It can be a reminder of past setbacks and anxieties. However, the Red Raider spirit has never been defined by fear, but rather, by pushing through it. That's what four Texas Tech University students are doing this fall as they stage their comeback.
Hayden Glatter never considered himself to be much of an academic.
“I didn't have an easy time in school,” he said.
In fact, Glatter dropped out of college his first time around.
After high school, he enrolled at McLennan Community College (MCC) in Waco to study criminal justice, but the subject failed to capture his imagination.
“I couldn't really find an interest,” he said. “I flunked out after the first two semesters because I stopped showing up to classes.”
For the next two years, Glatter worked a variety of odd jobs before becoming a heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) technician in 2018. Deciding this was a field he might want to pursue long term, he enrolled in Texas State Technical College (TSTC) and began working toward an associate degree in HVAC technology.
“I had to take this remedial math class at TSTC,” Glatter recalled. “It was mostly self-taught, but I had a great professor who was encouraging throughout that time and would give me any help I needed.
“That was one of my first positive experiences with an educator. He helped me push through and find a love for math once I finally understood it, and through that, I found passion for learning which led me down the road of wanting to teach others.”
Newly married with a child on the way, Glatter continued to work as an HVAC technician and took an additional job at H-E-B to make ends meet. After graduating from TSTC in 2022, he decided to pursue a bachelor's degree in education from the TechTeach Across Texas program at Texas Tech University at Waco.
“My biggest reason for going back to school was finding something I'm passionate about – my life's purpose. During my first year of taking teaching classes, I was actually planning to drop out of the program and pursue engineering instead, but one day my professor played a video about the impact a male role model can have in the classroom,” Glatter said.
“Teaching is, of course, a female-dominated profession. But I believe that, as amazing as it is to have so many women working in that field, having more male figures could be a big help to a lot of students. Watching that video was my pivotal moment to commit to teaching and not back out.”
And Glatter did just that, taking a position as a behavioral aide at Connally Independent School District for the 2021-22 school year.
“I would work with students who had problems behaving in class, were very aggressive, had learning disabilities, or had family problems at home and were really struggling,” Glatter said. “My job was to step in and encourage them to replace their negative behaviors with positive ones. I would sit there with them, let them take breaks, play games with them, get to know them and reward their positive behaviors.
“Taking on all those challenges and being a role model for those kids – it can be a lot of pressure. The hardest part is building a connection and getting the students to invest time in themselves, but it's extremely rewarding once you finally break through and build that connection.”
That connection with an educator – the one Glatter didn't find until college – is something he believes is critical to students' academic success.
“The biggest thing I lacked throughout my educational experience was confidence,” Glatter said. “No one really took the time to encourage me in school, and I just sort of scraped by. I feel like, had I received a bit more encouragement early on, I would've gotten to this point a lot sooner.”
He credits his wife, family and professors for encouraging him in adulthood and giving him the confidence to return to school as a nontraditional student – a banner he bears proudly.
“I've got a supportive wife and family who encouraged me, as well as the support of my professors, so I guess it's sort of now or never,” he said. “I feel the calling. Plus, teachers are in such short supply, so there's never been a better time to fill that role.
“I take pride in being a nontraditional student. I'm proud of the fact that, despite not having a good start or an interest in education, I found my way back. ‘Nontraditional' is a good thing. It means I overcame the odds and came back to my education in the end. I am able to go back to school and become a teacher so I can help the next kid who struggles to do what they want to do in life.”
After graduating in 2024 with his bachelor's degree and teaching certification in fourth- through eighth-grade mathematics, Glatter hopes to be placed in a middle school, but said he's really up for anything.
“If you're a teacher that a student would invite to their football game, or say hello to outside of school, or trust enough to discuss important things going on in their life, that means you've done your job as an educator,” Glatter said.
“I hope students come out of my class with confidence and they remember that I was their teacher.”