MSMS teacher Ian Barclay leaving to attend Yale University


Caleb Jenkins

MSMS math and physics teacher Ian Barclay will depart from his teaching days, for now at least, to study philosophy at Yale University this upcoming fall.

Hailee Sexton, Staff Writer

Math and physics teacher and MSMS alumnus Ian Barclay believes it is important that a teacher not only has a passion for his or her field but a passion for sharing it with others.

“I like teaching a lot,” Barclay said. “Education for me, on a personal level, is important simply because I think living an authentic life, in large part, means living your life in accordance with reality as best you can discover reality. That predisposes you to use your abilities, whatever they are, to figure out what reality is. When I get in the zone of being passionate about something, whether it’s in front of a classroom, in front of a board or online – you know, it’s hard to convey that kind of thing online – but one thing I hope to convey through my example is that education matters and it’s something worth being passionate about.”

Despite his love for teaching, Barclay, an MSMS alumnus, will be officially departing from MSMS to pursue his passion for philosophy at Yale University in the fall of 2021.

Barclay earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy at Johns Hopkins University, and he continued to get his master’s degree in medical biology and his master’s in mathematics. He will pursue a master’s in philosophy at Yale, focusing on the philosophy of religion. He intends to go to medical school and focus on psychiatry and, if accepted, would like to do a joint MD-Ph.D. program in which he pursues a simultaneous Ph.D. in philosophy or religious studies.

“Philosophy tackles some of the most fundamental questions that all thinking people ask themselves at some point,” Barclay said. “I think these questions are kind of inescapable, so when I was a freshman in college, there was pretty much a choice in front of me. Do I want to tackle these questions seriously or just kind of shove them off to the side in a haphazard, unserious manner? I chose the former; I wanted to seriously study them to give a nice, overarching, rigorous framework to my life – a world view if you will.”

Over the past 10 years, Barclay focused on teaching math and physics, so he has always been strong in the field. However, in his later years of high school, he decided to pursue his interests in philosophy.

“I’ve always cared about [religious literacy and philosophical literacy] in a general sense,” Barclay continued. “But I want to promote those things in a stronger way. I also want to be a voice that can speak at the interface of philosophy and STEM. I don’t want to give up my STEM background, but I do want to integrate it better with my humanities side as well.”

Reminiscing about two years teaching at MSMS, Barclay said he will most miss the students’ earnestness and intellectual passion.  MSMS students hold special talents that need to be nurtured at a high level, he said, adding that school leaders give teachers the freedom to do this.

“It’s so easy [to nurture these talents] at a school like MSMS,” Barclay said. “Not just because the teachers are passionate – I mean that has to be there of course – but also, the administration is very generous when it comes to trying to nurture the talents of gifted students. There’s no pushback from them. They don’t say, ‘No, no, you can’t just create a class so quickly like that. That violates policy X, Y and Z.’ There are surprisingly few barriers for us teachers to create the kind of rare opportunities for students that they deserve.” 

One of the students who has flourished as Barclay’s student is junior Madeline Raynor. 

“I’m extremely happy that he has the opportunity to strive for a higher education in a subject that he’s so passionate about,” said Raynor. “It is a little bit melancholic that he’s leaving because he was a favorite amongst many students. I had personally been looking forward to having him again as a teacher next year, but nevertheless, I’m very hopeful that he’ll have the time of his life at Yale.”

Senior Skylar Nichols regrets only having Barclay as a teacher for one year.

“I really enjoy having Mr. Barclay as a teacher,” Nichols said. “His teaching style is really effective for me, and I always feel comfortable asking for help if I need it. Even though I am a senior, this is my first year in one of his classes, and it is definitely sad that this is also my last. However, I am proud of him for his achievements and glad that he gets to focus on what he is passionate about.”

MSMS Director for Academic Affairs Kelly Brown praised Barclay’s hard work and generosity.

“Ian Barclay is a faculty member that is able to reach beyond what he was hired to teach to work to help meet the needs of the MSMS academic community,” said Brown. “During his time at MSMS, Mr. Barclay taught AP Physics 1 in addition to a full slate of mathematics. He also added Independent Studies courses as the interests of students matched his passion of study.”

Barclay, who grew up in Ocean Springs and later lived in Starkville, described how difficult it is for him to leave Mississippi.

“Leaving is by no means easy because I haven’t just been here as a teacher; I’ve also been here as a student, and I’ve made a tremendous amount of personal bonding with not just faculty, but also students, through the variety of classes I teach. So, certainly, it is very hard, but for me, something like Yale is an opportunity not just to grow academically, obviously, but also socially, mentally and spiritually.”

Barclay offered his advice to those students going to college and starting their lives after high school:

Be ambitious, work hard, work smart and never give up on the biggest dreams you can pull out of your soul,” Barclay said. “As soon as you water down your dreams or give them up, life immediately takes on a more depressing hue, and I speak from experience on this. Once you do that, you find yourself in certain environments that just aren’t conducive to your best growth, and it’s kind of like a downward spiral from there. More concretely, when you get to college, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and take a variety of classes that interest you. Don’t limit yourself early on.”