Mr. Grimes Reflects on Three Years at WAHS


Mr. Grimes dressed as Lady Gaga ready for WAHS spirit week.

Jack Steenburgh, Staff Writer

Mr. Grimes, a former Mellow Mushroom employee and teacher at WAHS, teaches World History I for freshmen. He has been teaching at Western for three years, two in his own classroom, and one as a student-teacher. Walking through the halls of Western, one should anticipate seeing Mr. Grimes dressed as a pharaoh, Lady Gaga, or in another array of zany outfits. His lessons range from lectures to yelling matches in one of his class debate games at the end of each unit. Grimes’ class rarely has dull moments, and he provides every student an opportunity to interact and learn. Mr. Grimes’ class is certainly not your average history class experience; Grimes’ does not follow a traditional (textbook) teaching approach. He assigns very little homework, and there are no textbooks. While he does give lectures, students are not forced to take notes. Mr. Grimes said, “I try to make jokes and show videos to give experiences that make things memorable and fun and not just a boring, nonstop lecture idea.”

Although Grimes does not follow a traditional teaching style, the time he puts into his lessons really shows. His lessons are planned thoroughly, usually down to every last joke. 

Furthermore, each class gets their own experience for a lecture, and Grimes promotes a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. In his class, shouting out questions or sharing comments is encouraged as long as it’s on topic or funny enough. Questions getting blurted out usually receive a quick response with either an in-depth answer or a laugh from Mr. Grimes. 

While his interactive lectures are enjoyable, students consider the games at the end of each unit to be a treat. Mr. Grimes agrees with this consensus: “I love the games we play. I had a student yesterday saying the games and stuff like that make the content more memorable, the information sticks with students more.”

Jokes are great, but outfits bring a whole new depth to class for young historians in Mr. Grimes’ class. His various outfits get a lot of attention from students.  “I think last year my Lady Gaga outfit was by far the best. I think Lady Gaga was a hit with students. A lot of people liked my pink outfit. I think those two are the tie for most favorite. They also like the pharaoh a lot too,” Grimes said.

Mr. Grimes in his pink outfit prepared for spirit week.

  Grimes strives to teach his students more than the surface-level World History I content. He wants to teach his students to develop critical thinking skills and develop a deeper understanding of the cultures they’re learning about. In his World History One class, he gets his students to ask “why” instead of just feeding them raw information to memorize.

Mr. Grimes said, “Cultural literacy and cultural diffusion are the one thing I want students to know when they leave. So I love giving that opportunity for students to actually see the world in a variety of ways.”

Expanding students’ understanding of history is a large portion of his class. Grimes strives to keep his students engaged and curious. He said, “My favorite part about teaching is definitely the student relationships that I can build. Also, getting students at least interested about history and affirming that there’s more to the world than just the perspectives that we see.”

Even though Mr. Grimes has been teaching at WAHS for only a few years, WAHS has been a good fit for Mr. Grimes. He said, “I love the community. I love the spirit aspects of it. I like the community itself. It’s really really strong. And the fact that we have a very good Western connection is really nice.”

Mr. Grimes loves teaching World History I: “World History I is a very tailored subject to Mr. Grimes,” but he said he would also be interested in teaching any other history class. Grimes also has a passion for art:  “I would love to teach AP Art History. That is something I was super, super passionate about.”

Since the ACPS has gone back to hybrid it has opposed all-new challenges for teachers. Mr. Grimes said, “I think it’s been a challenge. But I think the way that I’ve handled it has been successful so far. I’m still able to engage with people online and in the building equally, even though it’s a different learning experience for both.”

Although online school has been a difficulty for many teachers and students, Mr. Grimes has found ways to keep his class energetic and engaging even on zoom. “When it comes to engagement,” he said, “I think for the majority students are still remaining engaged via zoom. There are definitely individuals who seem to prefer to be in the building, versus being in online school. It definitely engages them more directly.”

Mr. Grimes had to adapt to the new 4×4 schedule. He said “It is insanely hard with zoom to keep my lessons as full and as focused. It makes it eighty times more difficult. I’ve had to cut games, fun activities, and content. The 4×4 had ruined it and the elimination of global studies has eliminated it. I think that’s one of the worst decisions that has been made.”

In this peculiar year, Mr. Grimes is still keeping his class wacky and engaging. His class is a special experience for the students that go to Western Albemarle High School, and he leaves students with a new outlook on the history that they’ve been taught. Freshmen coming to Western should be ready for Mr. Grimes’ class and a year filled with cultural diffusion, lively historical debate, and an array of different outlandish outfits.