Elgin Community College Adjunct Math Instructor Will Doty knows the importance of preparation, practice and adaptation, both in his leading role as professor and in his side gig as a crowd-pleasing karaoke singer. A big fan of music and theatre, Doty compares teaching to “producing, rehearsing and performing a new concert or play daily,” because of the amount of effort, planning and rehearsing that goes into just one day’s lesson plans.
Doty’s love of the arts and affinity for algebra stem from his desire to meet a challenge head-on and perform at his best. “Math was my most challenging subject in school, so naturally, I chose to teach it,” he said. “I know what it’s like to struggle to learn math, and I use that experience to help my students understand it.”
In his spare time, Doty has been singing karaoke to tunes from Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, the Moody Blues and almost anything from the 1970s for over 20 years. The hobby has enabled him to master public speaking and stage presence, which he believes play a big role in his success in the classroom.
“I've learned how to win over a tough audience by adapting to their different musical preferences—by switching from Barry Manilow to Garth Brooks,” Doty said. “In teaching, I adapt to students' different learning styles by varying my teaching methods and approach.”
Even the hardest critics applaud Doty’s performance; his teaching style has been hitting a high note with students for the 23 years he’s been a faculty member at ECC.
We caught up with Doty to learn more about his life and his work at ECC. Here is what he had to say.
In your words, what do you do at ECC?
I perform math magic in front of a captive audience and then I show them how they can do it, too.
What is your greatest accomplishment since you’ve been here?
On a macro level: Lasting 23 years here so far.
On a micro level: Changing hundreds, if not thousands, of minds’ thoughts and attitudes toward math in a positive way.
What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?
I would pour over the college's finances to see if I could find any extra funding for scholarships for working students who may not qualify for financial aid but still struggle to pay for books and tuition while supporting themselves or their families.
If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
Johnny Depp. Some people have told me I look like him. But, which one of his characters? I don’t know…maybe Willy Wonka or Edward Scissorhands—but definitely not Captain Jack Sparrow.
What’s on your “bucket list?”
I checked off a couple things last year—witnessing the Cubs win the World Series and seeing the total eclipse of the sun in Union, Missouri where it was 100 percent totality. I think what remains might be to see a UFO while viewing the Northern Lights in Nova Scotia.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work (i.e. hobbies/interests)?
I like to watch movies, listen to music, go bike riding and do yard work when the weather is nice.
Where was the best place you’ve traveled to?
South Dakota was the best place I’ve been to but I would like to visit Norway, where some of my ancestors are from.
What would be your “theme song?”
“Hold Your Head Up” by Argent. (Note: We checked, and Doty occasionally sings his theme song at local karaoke nights.)
What was your favorite class in school?
Chemistry in high school. I made a mixture that removed tarnish from old coins.
What was your first job out of school?
Working in the mail room at the Elgin Courier back when it was an afternoon newspaper. We got “the scoop” on the day’s morning or early afternoon events that the other papers wouldn’t have until the next day.
What quote best describes your philosophy?
“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” – George Washington Carver
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
I get to see my co-workers and students who are like my friends and family and allow me to be myself.