By Charles David Henry
Vice-principal, M. Wheeless comes to San Quentin’s Education Department with the experience of teaching in various middle schools and adult education departments throughout California’s public schools. He also has experience at the district office level, which includes managing teachers and workers in other supporting rolls in the schools.
He said teaching in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was a new challenge he was willing to accept.
“When seeking new opportunities, you never know what door will open,” he said. “You just do what you can do to be prepared, and with a little luck, you’ll be successful.”
Wheeless said increasing educational opportunities for inmates is an important goal for CDCR. “Achieving educational goals should not be predicated on whether the person is in prison or in society.”
“When seeking new opportunities,
you never know what door will open”
Teaching inside a prison has many obstacles. “It’s different than teaching kids during their impressionable years, which is very rewarding,” Wheeless said. “But, seeing inmates reach their educational goal is also rewarding. With this job, I have to be able to provide for inmates who have different educational goals and needs.”
In order for the system to work, Wheeless said inmates, teachers, and custody must work together, in the same direction, adding that he believes the prison educational system is on the right path.
With Western Association School College scheduled to accredit San Quentin’s Robert E. Burton Adult Education Department next spring, Wheeless said, “I will coordinate these activities with current members of the department.” Adding, “I have been here a short time, and there is a lot to learn before the WASC committee arrives.”
The accreditation evaluates the school, its programs, student learning goals, the school’s progress regarding its own goals, the support services, how the school plans to implement and evaluate its success, and student/staff demographics. Major increases or decreases in the student population are also included in the evaluation.
Wheeless urged inmates who are working toward their G.E.D. to come for testing as soon as possible.
The entire G.E.D. system is being updated and automated, he said. “It will be a different test. If you only have a few parts of the test to finish, you should come in immediately or you’ll have to start all over.”