No silver ceiling for WCC instructor
Dr. Mickey Hess, a 31-year-old English professor, who relates to students by listening to rap music in his poetry classes and says the word “cool” more times than an air conditioner repair man, was shocked to learn he wasn’t the youngest faculty member at Rider.
“What?” asked the baby-faced Hess. “I’m not?”
The difference was four years, nine months and one week. It’s exactly 1,743 days. That’s how much younger full-time faculty member Nicholas McBride is compared to Hess.
Born on April 30, 1980, McBride, a music education instructor, has Hess beaten by almost half a decade.
“Am I second?” begged Hess.
In the full-time faculty weight class, Hess is the runner-up. McBride, who teaches at the Princeton campus, has every professor there beat, even part-timers. There’s no younger full-time teacher on either campus.
In 2002, McBride graduated from Westminster Choir College (WCC) before coming back to teach only two years later.
Dr. Frank Abrahams, chairman of the Musical Education Department, was “absolutely” aware of McBride’s age. However, McBride didn’t realize he would be the youngest.
McBride took the job after a short tenure as Community Middle School’s main chorale director and a general music teacher in West Windsor-Plainsboro.
“He’s probably the finest middle school teacher I have ever seen,” said Abrahams.
Transitioning from middle school to college can be tough. For McBride, he faced more than the usual challenges. In his 20s, the WCC music education major would come face-to-face with students older than he.
“The most awkward situation I had was last year,” he said. “I taught a course where there was a student in my class who was a student at Westminster when I was.”
The student had come back to get his master’s in music education.
“We were at the college at the same time and that was a little awkward for me,” said McBride. “Naturally it was awkward for both of us that I was now grading papers of his and such.”
There have been a few other occasions that the youthful music education instructor had to survive. McBride is currently in his second year of teaching full-time, so not all students have had him for class.
“I have been mistaken for being a student at Westminster,” he said. “I was once in the Commons eating lunch. One student, who I guess was pretty new, sat down at the table with me because our Commons gets very packed.”
The young looking McBride started a casual conversation with him.
“So I said to him, ‘What’s your major?’” said McBride. “He said he was a music composition major and then said, ‘What’s your major?’”
Although he doesn’t dwell on being the youngest, some other faculty members can’t help but notice.
“Nobody calls me rookie or anything like that, but every now and then somebody will say ‘here comes little Nick McBride,’” he said.
There aren’t any ongoing jokes, but some people will pick on McBride casually sometimes. Once a secretary pinched McBride’s cheek and said, “Oh, what a babyface.”
Despite these instances, “his age has never been an issue,” said Abrahams.
However, while supervising a student teacher at a public school he encountered a teacher who doubted his credibility.
“I walked up to introduce myself and said, ‘I’m her supervisor from Westminster,” McBride said. “She immediately without saying anything [else] said, ‘How old are you.’ She asked me my age, which is an inappropriate question to ask someone you don’t know. Then she asked me where I had taught, how long have I taught, what my credentials were and it was awkward.”
Dr. Patrick Schmidt, a colleague of McBride’s, remembers him as a student.
“I think Nick was more complex than ‘the smart one’ or ‘the quiet one,’” Schmidt said. “He was an interested student and very easy to work with.”
McBride’s history is what made his former offer him the WCC job.
“In higher education we get to think how these relationships will develop with students,” said Schmidt.
After one year, McBride was persuaded to become a full-time professor. It was decided after two additional years, he would leave at the end of this semester to work on a graduate degree.
Despite his short tenure at WCC and his age, McBride has passed along a wealth of knowledge equal to that of a more experienced professor. Abrahams believes his colleagues’ teaching methods, intelligence and a good grasp hides his youth.
“If you were to poll the students and ask them how old he is, they would tell you he’s a lot older than he is,” he said.