Getting Back To Blogging

Hi Again Everyone,

Since one of my new year’s resolutions was to start blogging again on a regular basis (and it’s now late February), it’s time to get going!

When I was a history teacher, students would sometimes ask “where do you get all these stories from?” whenever I’d drop in some random bit of trivia about the topic at hand. A good example of this was the name of Teddy Roosevelt’s 2 horses that he took to Cuba during the Spanish-American War, Little Texas and Rain-In-The-Face. The vast majority of these tidbits came from one source: books! For my first blogging project of 2020, I will discuss my 10 favorite books of all time. The first review will go up during the week of 2/23/20. I hope that the posts might inspire you to check some of these books out. Let me know what you think. Thanks!

P.S.: Little Texas is the only horse that Teddy rode into battle in Cuba. Poor Rain-In-The-Face drowned in the confusion of landing the troops off of the Navy ships.

To take A.P., or to not take A.P. (that is the question…)

Hi again, everyone. I apologize for the long delay between Blog posts. I hope that all is well with you!

We are officially off and running here in the 3rd academic quarter. Students, I hope that the new quarter is going well for you so far. We are just on the cusp of getting into scheduling for the 18-19 school year. Every year, we have students ask us whether or not they should take an Advanced Placement class. A.P. courses offer high school students the chance to take on the highest level of rigorous college-level work and the opportunity to earn college credit. As a former A.P. United States history teacher, I am always excited to talk about the benefits of the program. Here are some things to think about when considering taking an A.P. course…

If you are a really passionate about a subject area, a corresponding A.P. course is worth considering. The courses give students a chance to really go in-depth on topics and ideas. The classes also give students the opportunity to be active participants in their learning. Whether it is working on a complex lab assignment, leading a class discussion, or playing a Progressive Era reformer in a class activity, A.P. courses give you the chance to really go to the next level.

A.P. courses also give high school students the opportunity to develop and sharpen their critical thinking skills before heading off to college. This can make the transition to the challenges of freshman year at college much easier for students. These skills will provide a lifetime of benefits.

If you are considering applying to a very selective college or university, A.P. coursework may provide you with an extra edge in the application process. All A.P. courses must be authorized by the College Board to ensure that they are challenging enough to earn the A.P. designation. In other words, when a college sees the A.P. courses on a student’s transcript, they know exactly how challenging that class is. It is the highest standard of academic rigor and excellence at the high school level.

A qualifying grade on an A.P. exam can earn you college credit, and save you thousands of dollars in tuition and textbook fees. Additionally, the college credits that you may earn via A.P. exams can get you out of introductory level college courses, and into something more interesting. For example, A.P. credit could get you out of English 101 and give you the opportunity to take a Shakespeare course or a critical writing class as a college freshman.

A.P. classes are challenging, but they are NOT impossible. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “It is hard to fail, but it is worse to have never tried to succeed.” You get only one chance at high school, so consider challenging yourself with the most rigorous courses that you can take.  We hope that you will consider joining the LEGION of former I.H.S. students who have found success in the A.P. program!

For more information and resources, please visit

If you have any questions or comments regarding A.P. classes, please see your guidance counselor or myself. Happy Scheduling Season!

The Best Fans in the Land!

Anyone who is a truly dedicated fan of a team really has to be willing to go the extra mile. You will experience the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”, like the old introduction to ABC’s Wide World of Sports used to say. If you are a Cleveland Browns’ fan, you will experience decades of perpetual disappointment, and wonder how this all happened…

Fortunately for Independence Blue Devil fans, this fall sports season was the most successful in the history of our school district. A state title, a regional championship, district championships, sectional titles, it was truly a season without peer. One of the best parts of this fall season was the SENSATIONAL work that was put in by our I.H.S. Student Spirit Section! Week after week, our student section made the effort to support and cheer our athletes on. This included both home and away contests. Our Student Section could always be counted on to get the fan base fired up.

I have two favorite memories of the Student Section from this fall. The first one is from Saturday, October 28th. The Student Section made the trip out to Elyria High School to cheer on the volleyball team in the District Final. After that, many of members of the Student Section, along with the entire volleyball team, made the trip to Berea to cheer on the Boys’ Soccer team in their District Final. It was a bitterly cold day for late October, with a biting wind. This did not stop our Student Section from turning out to cheer on the team.

It is amazing how transforming the power of school spirit can be. The genuine support that our students have shown for each other during this fall season will never be forgotten! Thanks to everyone who makes up our TREMENDOUS Student Spirit Section! We are proud of you! See you at our winter sporting events!IMG_7874img_7873.jpg

Some Belated Thanks…

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving break, and enjoyed the time off with family and friends. We hosted Thanksgiving this year, and I did not get a chance to post this before Thanksgiving Day (due to the fact that we put off almost all of the cleaning until the last minute.) Since the Christmas decorations are not up yet, the spirit of Thanksgiving is still in our house. With that spirit in mind, here are some belated thanks…

I am thankful…

for my family, and all the patience and support that they give me in this job. I would be nothing without them.

for my close circle of childhood friends, as we are still together in our fourth decade of friendship. There’s nothing like friends remembering stories from 30 years ago like it was last week!

for co-workers that I regard as my second family. If you find a job that you love, and great people to work with,  you are truly blessed.

that I get to work with great students week after week, and  that they always make me laugh really hard at least once every day. It’s awesome to get to share their school experience on a daily basis.

for our great community that supports our school district and our students. There is no place like Independence!

for all of the great teachers that I had growing up, and for the time they took to understand us as individuals. They are the ones that really made me appreciate how important it is for a teacher to connect and engage with kids.

that so many of my former students stay in touch, and that several have moved home to Independence to raise their own kids. That is truly awesome!

to live in a country that gives unlimited opportunities and freedoms to its citizens. And I am equally thankful for the men and women who came before us to give us our freedoms, and for those brave individuals who protect these freedoms today.

that Grandpa McGuinness’ love of football transferred to me back in 1979.

that I got rid of my Browns’ season tickets after 2014. I’m also thankful that I’m old enough to remember when the Browns were REALLY good and relevant. (30 years ago!)

for all of the dogs that I have owned in my lifetime. The loyalty and love of a dog cannot be matched!

that John Lennon met Paul McCartney by chance in 1957 in Liverpool, and I’m thankful for the love of The Beatles that my Mom gave me. (She wore out two copies of Abbey Road on vinyl when I was a little kid.)

The list of things to be thankful for is truly endless. As this year is starting to wind down, I hope that all of us have the opportunity to reflect on what really matters, and all of the people, places, and experiences that we have to be thankful for.

“Remember to take a break and be thankful for what you have, where you’ve been, and for what lies ahead.”








A Mighty Oak From a Single Acorn

You never can tell when a great idea on paper will turn into an AMAZING idea in real life. We were lucky enough to have that happen at Independence High School five years ago. One of our Middle School teachers, Mr. Karl Schuld, approached us with the idea of starting a Varsity Girls Golf team, which we had never had before. For anyone who has ever been a head coach, you know how much time and energy gets put into that endeavor. Now, imagine what it would be like to start a high school varsity sport from scratch! Mr. Schuld was willing to invest the hundreds of hours of planning and organizing to give the team its start four years ago. Just starting the team from scratch was already a huge success story.  Mr. Schuld told me in 2014 that he would get this team to the OHSAA state tournament within 5 years. I have always known Mr. Schuld to be a man of his word, but this was an amazing promise. Little did we know what lay in the future…

In 2015, in only its second year, the team made it to the district tournament in Canton. Again, an incredible achievement. In 2016, the team finished SECOND at the state tournament at Ohio State. This was a unique achievement, as no one had heard of a team that had reached such lofty heights in only its third year of existence. There was a great deal of celebrating this achievement, but you could tell that the girls were not satisfied with second place, even though there are no guarantees that you will get back to the state tournament. It would be a huge hill to climb.

The team was “locked in” this season from the first tournament this past August.  All season long, the team racked up win after win, but there was only one goal in mind, and that goal was waiting at The Ohio State University Golf Course. All of the hard work, grit, and determination brought the team back to Columbus on October 13th for the state tournament.  Again, there are no guarantees in life: Someone could have a tough round, someone could get injured, the winds could be tricky on either day of the tournament. All the girls could do is go out and give it their best shot.

On Saturday, October 14th, the I.H.S. Girls Varsity Golf team completed the mission, as they were crowned as state champions, in only their fourth year of existence! This was the first championship by a girls team in the 95-year history of our school district. Seniors Lyndsay Blum, Maddie Harper, Madeline Mindzora, and Sophia Trombetta were with the program at its very start, and they will be leaving I.H.S. as  state champions. We will be honoring the team on Thursday, November 2nd at 9 a.m. in the I.H.S. Auditorium. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Again, this was all just an idea five years ago, and now it has resulted in a state title and a program that is primed for many more successful years. Congratulations to all members of the team and to Coach Schuld for a job VERY well done!


The Ones That Stay With You

It is my hope that all of us have had at least one teacher who really made a huge impression on us at some point. I have been extremely fortunate, as I have had a bunch of terrific teachers over the years. The truly great ones make you look forward to their class every day. I had a few in high school that were truly exceptional. Mr. Kelley, my Pre-A.P. U.S. History teacher, who had a great sense humor and storytelling ability. Dr. Powaski, for A.P. U.S. History, who was one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met, and was a published author. Mr. Gubitosi for Latin I and II. He had a deep love for the art of teaching, and truly cared about our learning as students.

The one who stands at the top of the mountain was my Algebra I and Algebra II teacher, Mr. Serra. He is the single-most engaging teacher that I have ever met. When I started high school, I was drowning in my Algebra I placement. The teacher was very nice, but my skill sets were not up to par for the pace of her class. My guidance counselor told me before Christmas Break that I would be transferred to Mr. Serra’s Algebra I class after vacation.

During break, I saw Mr. Serra at basketball practice. He was walking through the gym, and I told him that I would be in his class after vacation. I wanted to tell him that he was inheriting me, my 54% grade in Algebra I, and that I had zero self-confidence when it came to higher math. The look on my face must have said it all, as Mr. Serra said: “Don’t worry there, William. It’s all going to work out.” I appreciated his kind words, but I thought that he had no idea how lost I was.

Within the first two weeks of being in his class, Mr. Serra had taken my shattered confidence and built it up. I was solving equations and working complex problems with ease. He was never too busy to meet with any of us before or after school, or during his planning time. The time in his class flew by every day, as Mr. Serra would crack jokes, hit the board with his yardstick to make a point, sing, and do anything to keep our attention. I always talk to my students now about building “the foundation” to set themselves up for the future. Mr. Serra is one of those people that helped me build a foundation. My mother liked to use the phrase “magic people”, meaning that there are some individuals that can really have a great impact on you at key moments. Mr. Serra certainly fits that definition. I always taught with a yardstick in my hand as a daily tribute to him. (My original yardstick was the first thing that I hung up in the I.H.S. principal’s office in 2011.)

I last saw Mr. Serra in 2012, when my Mom passed away. He came to the funeral home, as my younger brother and sister were also lucky enough to have him as a teacher. When I saw him, I said: “There’s the greatest math teacher of them all.” Being Mr. Serra, he said “where?”, and turned around to look behind where he was standing. His sense of humor is still intact, all these years later.

If you ever had a teacher like Mr. Serra in your life, consider taking the time to thank them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been out of school for decades or if you are still a student. The kindness of an email, note, or a call from a former student has a tremendous impact on a teacher. The best teachers always stay with you, no matter how long ago you were in class.

In Praise of (Paper) Books…

At some point in our lives, we were probably given the dreaded summer reading assignment. My daughter kept a McGuinness family tradition alive by waiting until two days before school started to get going on her assignment. She did get everything finished just under the wire (another family tradition.) When I asked her what she thought of the book, she stated “ehhhh…it was kind of boring.” I think this happens to many of us when we are assigned things to read, not necessarily of our own choosing. I know that my most tedious summer reading project was Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” heading into 11th grade Honors English. I knew that it was an important book, and I knew what Dickens meant to English literature, but I did not enjoy one bit of it. Again, when the word “assigned” pops up, a sense of dread sets in…

Today is National Read a Book day in the United States. I would wager that most of us absolutely love our devices and modern technology. It can be difficult to remember what life was like before the advent of the iPhone a decade ago. Now, it is hard to imagine daily life without one. That being said, there is still great satisfaction in reading a book, a real one made out of paper. There is a greater connection between the reader and the tangible feel of a real book, plus you usually retain more from reading a paper book. My greatest weakness in life is spending money on biographies and history books, even though it has been 7 years since I have taught history.  All of the great tidbits and insights that I was able to put into my history lessons came from all of the outside reading that I did on my own.

I challenge everyone to try to read at least one book of your own choosing before the end of September. Don’t pick something based on your classwork, don’t pick an AR book, don’t pick something that someone told you that you “should” read. Just pick something that interests you. The Civil War, football, astronomy, anything you want. I guarantee you that it is time well spent. Happy National Read a Book Day to all!

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”

–Walt Disney

Day 1: Let the stories begin…

Many events remind us that the days left before school starts are dwindling: It gets darker earlier, fireflies come out, most students start doing their summer reading at the last minute, and the Browns are not quite yet out of the playoff picture. Some students regard day 1 of the school year with a great deal of apprehension. My most memorable first day as a student was when I was starting 7th grade.  It was a great, stress-free morning. The reason that I was so carefree is that my Mom forgot that it was the first day of school for me and my siblings! My grade school did half-day starts, K through grade 4 in the morning, grades 5 through 8 in the afternoon. I was innocently doing my paper route at 11:00 a.m. that morning, when my Mom screeched to a halt in our hideous light blue Chevy Monte Carlo. She started screaming: “IT’S THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!! GET HOME AND CHANGE! YOU HAVE TO BE THERE IN LESS THAN AN HOUR!”  In an instant, my summer was gone. By 12:30, I was in Sister Mary Eileen’s classroom, still wondering what happened…

I have always loved Day 1 as both a teacher and as a principal. It is always great to see everyone after the summer break, and catch up. Every new year really is a chance to reinvent yourself, to make new memories, and have hilarious stories that will stay with you forever. My childhood friends and I still remember every ridiculous thing that happened when we were growing up. To my current students, I hope that you get the chance to make great memories this year that will stay with you forever.

Remember, High School is literally a “once in a lifetime” event. We feel very fortunate to have you here with us at I.H.S.! Have an awesome year, and welcome home!!

A New Adventure…

Good evening everyone. This is Mr. McGuinness, principal of Independence High School in Independence, Ohio. I am starting a blog this school year, and it is my goal to post stories about our students, our school, and our staff. Being an old American History teacher, I will probably throw in some history stories as well. I hope that you enjoy this new endeavor. Thanks!