Teachers Before They Were Teachers: Mr. LaBarge Edition

By Ji Ji Kim

Teaching the young generation and inspiring them to enjoy learning are valuable and rewarding life experiences, which is why a lot of people choose to become teachers. Mr. Denny LaBarge, the IB physics teacher, had also found pleasure in teaching and had decided to enter the field of education after years of being an engineer and a business consultant in the automobile industry.

Mr. LaBarge hard at work sciencing.

At first, as an engineer, he was involved in the “scientific testing of automobiles,” said Mr. LaBarge. He tested car engines and used computers to “control industrial processes, like the melting of steel and creating steel products for the body panels,” he said.

Yet due to his interest in computers, he moved into another company and pursued a career in the computer industry for the next 20 years. His job was to “support customers around the world, mostly in the automotive industry” so that they can “make the best use of computers in the businesses that they do,” Mr. LaBarge explained.

As he gained experience in applying computers to motors and other parts of the car manufacturing field, Mr. LaBarge gained credibility in consulting customers in this industry. Some of the companies he worked with are Nissan, Samsung, Ford, Volvo, and Maruti Suzuki. His job was a combination of the “technical work” and the “business work,” he said, as he had to consult the clients by taking into consideration the mechanics of automobiles and computers to aid them with their businesses.

Thanks to his occupation, Mr. LaBarge had the opportunity to travel around the world and work with companies in various countries. “The only continent that I have never really gone to with the automobile industry is Antarctica.”

After 20 years in the automotive industry, he was looking for something “new” and “refreshing” to do. He was doing substitute teaching at the local schools in Florida, when he had a “creative spark” that told him that he had an aptitude for teaching. Due to his studies as an engineer, he was already qualified to teach physics, math, and chemistry.

“I decided to become a teacher, and it is the best job I’ve ever had,” he said.


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