TROY alumnus using philosophies learned in College of Education to influence the next generation of Alabama engineers

TROY alumnus Matt Massey serves as president of the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. (submitted)

TROY alumnus Matt Massey serves as president of the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. (submitted)

The teaching philosophies a math major learned at Troy University are being used to shape the next generation of high-tech engineers for Alabama.

Matt Massey, now President of the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering, earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary math education in 1997. 

“I grew up on 4th Street in Citronelle, where my dad was the head football coach at the high school and my mom coached all the girls’ sports. I grew up with the school being the center of the town and high school sports being at the center of that,” he said.

“It felt like home at TROY. Coming from a small town, college was intimidating to me, but at TROY, I felt support in whatever building I went it,” Massey said.

Since he’d been good at math and science, folks around him encouraged him to go study engineering in college. Massey said that’s where Dr. Pat Rossi made an indelible mark on him, and, in so doing, would go on to impact high-tech learning for hundreds of Alabama high schools.

“He had a focus on student learning. His philosophy was about mastering the material and knowing the lessons,” he said. 

“As we would head through the classes, when we got the final exam, he told us ‘if your exam grade is higher than your average, I’ll give you that grade for the course.’ His philosophy was ‘if you can show me what you need to know by the end of the class, why not have an A because that A represents what you should know (by that point),” Massey recalled.

Today, that same philosophy Massey experienced in Calculus I and Calculus II classes is in place at ASCTE in Huntsville and setting a new standard for secondary education in America.

“We’ve become a learning-based model for the entire country and that concept goes back to those early days at TROY. It was about engaging with the learning experience. TROY’s philosophy was ‘come here to learn’ and the focus was the student,” he said.

While Massey went on to the University of Mississippi for a master’s degree in mathematics, and Samford for both a master’s and an educational specialist’s degree in educational leadership and administration, his intention was to be “a regular old math teacher and coach.”

His family relocated to Huntsville, he got a job in the Madison County School System and married “the English teacher across the hall.”

Pretty soon, he was the math department’s Lead Teacher with an administrative certificate and training other teachers across the curriculum.

“After going through the administrative degree program, I decided I really didn’t want to do that – be a vice-principal or principal,” he said.

The leadership in the 19,000-plus student school system, however, was in turmoil and county school system was in deep trouble – both financially and educationally. No one, including the old superintendent, wanted to run for the elected position, so Massey stepped up to the plate.

“The old superintendent got in the race at the last minute and a principal ran and one other person. In the primary runoff, I won with something like 75 percent of the vote. We got in there and turned things around – it was hard,” he said. “Madison County has 27 schools. I was going to do the job for four years and go back to teaching math.”

Turned things around he did and won a second term unopposed. Massey ignited an Advanced Placement initiative in which MCSS became the state leader in AP enrollment and qualifying scores earning college credit. The MCSS’s AP enrollment exceeded 3,000 with over 1,100 Qualifying scores in each of the last two years. In 2017, he was selected District 9 Superintendent of the Year and was a finalist for State Superintendent of the Year. He continues to serve as the president of District 9 School Superintendents of Alabama.

In 2019, he saw an opportunity to take public education in Alabama to the next level with the concept for ASCTE.

“I went from being superintendent of the state’s 7th largest school system to being ‘hire number one’ of a 320-kid school, but I saw it as a greater chance to help those throughout state,” he said.

Now in its 4th school year, the plan is paying off. Graduates are staying in Alabama to attend college and they’re interning and working with high-tech firms and top-level federal agencies, such as the National Security Administration. Two students are set to attend TROY next fall. Several others already have signed contracts with employers for post-college jobs.

“I can hire people with certain degrees in the town (Huntsville) – we have two Ph.D. engineers and cyber professionals – that regular school systems can’t, and we can go down to Opp, for example, and help them get started offering programs,” he said.

Each school district in the state automatically has a seat for a qualified student. In January, the school was in Pike County on a recruiting visit, for example. The tuition, room and board is completely free at the school, which is independent of the State Dept. of Education and governed by its own board and functions as an independent state agency.

“It’s pretty cool to go into an underserved population of students and tell them they have a chance at an elite education,” he said. “We have a spot for them, if they meet the minimum standards.”