The mugs are on the wall: Dutch Fork High teacher leaves lasting impression

Updated: Jun. 6, 2018 at 6:50 PM EDT
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IRMO, SC (WIS) - Did you ever have a teacher who left a lasting impression on you in your formative years? While there are likely many here in the Midlands – one local teacher has something to show for it.

That "something" is a wall of mugs from colleges across the United States.

"We have mugs from Clemson, South Carolina, Furman, PC, Stanford, Cornell, MIT, Princeton," said Barry Lindler, a teacher at Dutch Fork High School. "I've got mugs from former students that are employees at Apple, Intel, Microsoft."

Lindler is a computer science and programming teacher at Dutch Fork High School in Lexington-Richland School District Five. He's been teaching at the school for 20 years.

"I want to reach them on a personal level," Lindler said. "I want to have fun but we also know we have work to do in real life."

That's the exact vibe you get upon walking into his classroom. Students sit on stools in a relaxed, dimly lit classroom. The chatter is quiet, productive and engaged. Some are working on coding, while others sit and play computer game assignments.

On the day we visited, Lindler had a special guest.

"I spent 3 years out of 4 in Lindler's class," said Lindler's former student, Sabra Neal. "I used to call him Lin Lin."

The two didn't miss a beat: bantering back and forth to the tune of sarcastic jabs and memories of Neal's 2009 graduation.

"She comes in with a purpose and a presence as I like to say," Lindler said of Neal.

Neal had brought Lindler a Georgia Tech mug. It's where she recently received her doctorate degree in computer programming. And her humble beginnings, she said, were in Lindler's classroom.

"She just had that bulldog drive," said Lindler. "And for some reason, she didn't have the confidence in herself. That's just part of our job is to identify that and to push and pull and prod and help them develop the skills or enhance what they're already interested in."

"I never felt like I was good in programming, but he always got on my nerves and just made me do it and pushed me," Neal said.

And while Lindler usually receives 15-20 new mugs a year, this one is extra special. Sabra Neal is now Dr. Sabra Neal – and she is the first African-American woman to wear that title in her field from Georgia Tech.

"He has 150 mugs up there," Neal said. "I feel like every person in life has a purpose and the fact that he's driven each one of us towards our purpose is indescribable."

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