An Inspiring Educator

March 1, 2016


BUFFALO, NY - When Houghton Academy upset five-time champion City Honors at Buffalo’s last Middle-School Math League Competition, the win surprised everyone - except Keith B. Wiley ’78, MBA ’81.

“We didn’t just come out of nowhere,” says Wiley, who teaches math to Houghton’s seventh and eighth grade students. “For years, we came in second place.”

Still, it was a hard fought victory for Wiley’s students, 85 percent of whom live in poverty. “Many come from single-parent homes,” Wiley explains. “Domestic abuse, drug abuse and teen pregnancies are prevalent.”

Though he can’t fix his students’ personal situations, Wiley can give them the best chance to master ninth-grade algebra. That’s right. Wiley teaches ninth-grade algebra to all Houghton’s eighth-grade students, no matter their math level.

How? Wiley’s enthusiasm for the subject is unbridled.

“I sing and make jokes,” he says. “I bring a passion to math they’ve never seen before and relate math to the real world. My lessons are interactive and include websites and YouTube videos.”

But Wiley is more than an educator to his students. He’s the father figure they sometimes lack.

“I try to be accessible to my students,” says Wiley. “They see me in the neighborhood and at local restaurants. I sing gospel at the nearby church.”

If teaching seems natural to Wiley, it is. His mother taught fourth grade. But Wiley was a late-comer to the field.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in math and business economics, and an MBA in finance from Canisius, Wiley went to work in banking and investment. He held leadership positions at the Bank of New York, Rand Capital Corp. and Goldome Bank.

It wasn’t until Goldome closed that Wiley started to consider a career in the classroom.

To make extra money, he worked as a math tutor at Buffalo Alternative High School. The positive results began to add up when “the district approached me and asked if I wanted to teach full-time.” That was 16 years ago. Ever since, Wiley’s been changing the course of students’ lives.

He proudly recalls the special education student who “went on to pass ninth-grade Regents math and is now in college.”

There was the 16-year old who failed eighth grade, several times. “The light went on during the last six weeks of school,” says Wiley. The student not only passed the grade but passed the Regents exam and continued on to college.

Success stories like these keep Wiley in the classroom. Sure, retirement is in the future for Wiley. When it’s time, Wiley, 60, will return to his native North Carolina, where his children and grandchildren call home. But for now, Wiley knows his students still need him.

He says he likes to tell them: “Unless you were dressed by the butler and driven by the chauffeur, the only way you’re going to learn this material and graduate is through hard work. That means we’re all in this together.”