By: Raina Shah
We’ve all been asked the question, or have at least heard it: What do you want to do or be after high school? For some high school students, the answer is straightforward, their path clearly defined.
For others, including Earth and Science teacher Justin Rix, the answer led to 18 intriguing years of self discovery. If anything, Rix’s career path should provide a measure of confidence to any who is uncertain or struggles to define, or be defined by, a career path.
After many bumps on his path, Rix discovered what his passion was; luckily for Glenelg, it’s teaching.
Rix’s journey began with a strong educational foundation, developed by a range of experiences that even included the fascination with death.
Bill Stara, Rix's Earth and Science teacher at Centennial High School, made an early impression on him as a student. Rix said Stara was his favorite teacher and helped Rix consider a career in the realm of earth sciences.
However, Rix faced internal pressure at home while choosing a career path.
"When I was in college, my father was a dentist so I had a lot of pressure to go into medicine," Rix said.
With that influence, Rix decided to major in pre-medicine at the University of Maryland in 1998. After a difficult freshman year that saw his grades drop significantly, Rix decided to enroll in anatomy and physiology studies at Howard Community College in 1999 where he developed an unexpected interest in death and how to deal with it.
“People typically either have a healthy fear of death, a natural curiosity for it, or both,” Rix said. “It is one of those things we put off dealing with and being faced with it evokes the strongest of emotions. I always wanted to understand it better and working in the anatomy field was a way to find answers.”
That same year, Rix began working at the Anatomy Gift Registry in Hanover, MD, a non-profit organization created in 1994 to support advancements in medical education and scientific research, where he progressed from Lab Technician to Senior Anatomist over a six-year period.
Meanwhile, after finishing his classes at HCC, Rix transferred again, this time to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) where he would earn his undergraduate and a Masters degree between 2000-2006. One of Rix’s hobbies and passions was wrestling and he competed for the UMBC wrestling team but his career ended short in 2004 when he suffered a spinal injury.
Toward the end of his time in college, Rix still was not satisfied with his career trajectory, and he realized, after all, that his passion did not align with medicine.
He recalled his childhood dream of flying planes, which led him to look for chances as a member of the Air National Guard. He went through all of the testing and physical examinations and passed them all. But after accidentally re-herniating his disc from his wrestling injury, Rix needed spinal fusion surgery in 2008, ending any possibility of flying.
That door closed, but another window opened.
“Interestingly, the injury closed the door for flying but led to the opportunity to apply for the National Science Foundation scholarship/internship which led to my teaching career,” Rix said.
Rix transitioned into teaching in 2006 in Baltimore County. Then, in 2008, Rix was hired in Howard County and taught at River Hill. He then voluntarily transferred to Glenelg in 2016 where, he said, the position has continued to allow him to reflect on all he has learned throughout his life.
“I can apply pretty much everything I have learned over the years to my job right now,” Rix said.
Rix said he is thankful for the knowledge he gained about different careers on his winding journey. Coincidence or not, his path has ultimately come full circle, as he is teaching the same type of class now that he was most inspired by as a student.
“It is so much more important to take the time to find what you love to do rather than to cross the finish line first,” Rix said. “Either way you are going to work. Might as well be doing something you enjoy.”