1 in 2000: Matthew Wilson, “A charismatic presence”

by Molly Johnson, Features Editor
photo by Maureen Caulfield

No matter the temperature outside, he can be found roaming the halls in flip-flops and the occasional dinosaur costume or in room 2306, teaching ninth grade English and the senior elective Asian and Asian American Literature. Well known for his costumes, humor and energy, English teacher Matthew Wilson is beloved by both students and teachers. 

With prior experience in law and personal training, Wilson’s professional background provides a unique perspective to his teaching style, English department head Brian Baron said.

“He started doing this later than most of us did,” he said. “He’s lived a whole life before he became a teacher, which I think is really helpful.”

Ultimately, Wilson’s love for the classroom environment led him to become a teacher, he said.

“It’s a lot of fun. The moment that you see the light bulb go off on top of a kid’s head is one of the best moments ever,” he said. “For me, watching my students as a whole grow from September to June is just an amazing process.”

School adjustment counselor Sarah Gentile said that Wilson’s passion for teaching is inspiring.

“Mr. Wilson is an exemplar of really holistic, supportive teaching. He makes time for all students and he puts in 110 percent,” she said. “The best thing about working with him is just the energy and passion he brings to his craft. It makes me want to bring more energy to my own work.”

For his fourth year at South, Wilson is teaching Asian American Literature, a course he started in 2018 to improve Asian and Asian American representation in English classes.

“I wanted to make sure that, in a school where almost 25% of the kids identify as either Asian or Asian American on some level, I wanted them to be able to see themselves in the stories that we read, to see themselves as the heroes,” Wilson said.

Isaac Chan, a senior in Wilson’s Asian and Asian American Lit class, said that he is grateful for Wilson’s teaching style, which balances fun with a deep care and understanding for his students.

“On a personal level, we connect a lot, and he is able to understand what students are going through. He’s able to have that understanding and apply it to his class and make it more enjoyable and easier for the students,” Chan said.

Wilson is deeply committed to his students, English teacher Jenny Robertson said. She has worked with him for the past six years.

“Nothing really makes him angry. He’s a very chill dude,” she said. “But he cares so deeply.”

He brings this dedication to every class, freshman Sophiya Jacobs said.

“He’s a very fun teacher,” they said. “And he makes sure that you know what you’re doing.”

Baron said that Wilson’s aura transcends classroom walls.

“He’s a wonderful person,” he said. “He’s an all around good-hearted, empathetic, charismatic presence.”

Gentile, too, said she appreciates Wilson’s supportive and humorous contributions to the South community. 

“I love his humor and his costumes and the sense of community that he builds in every class that he teaches,” she said. “He brings a sense of true acceptance and true validation and he really wants each of us to shine in our own authentic light.”

Chan’s favorite costume of Wilson’s is Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street.

“He wears costumes every spirit,” Chan said. “He wore an Oscar outfit one of the times, and every time he moved, he would jiggle up and down. It was really funny.”

Through all of his experience in teaching, Wilson said that ultimately he hopes to support his students’ mental health.

“I would I hope that my biggest contribution is that I’ve lowered the stress level that my students have experienced,” he said, “On a more silly note, I would hope that people will just remember the costumes.”