Pleasant Hills Middle School teacher lives a fantasy life

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

Mike Medved jokes that his life has been like a fairytale — a “cheesy Disney movie,” even — where the 6-foot-7 basketball player travels the world and follows his dreams, only to return home and find his happy place.

All the while, he used music to keep him centered while overcoming hardships and found that a good education can take him anywhere, from a professional basketball career in England to skydiving in Australia.

“My life really is like a cheesy Disney movie,” said Medved, 26, of Elizabeth Township, a first-year teacher of eighth grade history at Pleasant Hills Middle School this year.

Medved, who spent the last three years in England playing professional basketball or teaching in their education system, returned home this year to become a teacher in the West Jefferson Hills School District. He wanted to spend more time with his family and live out his dream of being a teacher in the Pittsburgh region, he said.

“I really have a passion for life. I hope that catches on with the students,” he said.

Medved, a 2005 Elizabeth Forward graduate, was among the top 500 basketball players in the country as a high school senior. He received scholarship offers from small Division 1 schools from across the country before tearing his ACL and being sidelined from a promising career.

“I look back on it with a lot of appreciation for what happened,” he said.

Ultimately, Medved accepted a scholarship offer at St. Vincent College, where he played hoops after recovering from injury. He was the captain of the basketball team his junior and senior years, where the team had the highest winning percentage in school history, he said.

Coming from a family of teachers, Medved wanted to keep that tradition going and majored in history for secondary education with hopes of entering the field right out of college.

“We're a whole bag of them,” he said with a laugh.

After graduating from St. Vincent in 2009, though, he struggled to find a job in the field. Deciding on how to proceed with his future also was a struggle, he said.

“I was all up in the air,” Medved said.

The basketball player faced a decision: play professional basketball in Germany or the United Kingdom or take a position with the Washington Generals, the team that loses each night to the Harlem Globetrotters.

He immediately scratched the latter.

“You're really just a dummy,” he said.

Medved, who had spent the summer of 2008 in Leeds, England, on a scholarship to complete his senior thesis, accepted a position playing for the Leed's Carnegie professional and college basketball teams, all while pursuing his master's in business management at the school.

“It was tough,” he said. “Sometimes I look back and think, ‘How did I ever survive that?'”

Medved, a high school center who later played a forward position, competed with people from around the world — representing Hungary, Poland, Spain and China — in Leeds.

He learned a new way of life: driving a stick shift and figuring his way on the streets through “roundabouts.”

The food, too, was much different, he said.

“I grew to love it,” he said.

After two years on the team, Medved returned home for the summer with plans to stay.

Instead, though, he decided to return to Leeds to teach psychology, sociology, law and citizenship to 12- and 13-year students.

“It was an entirely new school system,” he said.

After a year teaching in Leeds, Medved applied for one teaching job in the U.S.: at Pleasant Hills Middle School.

He got a first interview, but was in England and had to complete the session via Skype. He flew to Pittsburgh for a second interview with district officials and was hired for the position.

His decision to return to the United States was mostly driven by a desire to be close to his family, and be there for his parents, who now are in their mid-60s, Medved said.

“It's a great time to be around your family,” he said.

Now that he is back in Pittsburgh, he's resumed his role with an old band that now calls themselves, “The Mike Medved Band.”

They played every summer since Medved was a college senior, which often meant he had to travel home to play with the group. The middle school teacher is the lead singer and writes the songs and the music for the group. He also is in a band with his Leeds friends, “Mike Medved and the Redcoats.”

The folk rock/blues performer began singing as a child in church choirs, but it was at an open mic night at St. Vincent's where he found his niche.

“Music is always something that I needed to keep me sane,” he said.

Medved recently performed at a fundraiser at Pleasant Hills Middle School where he shared his talents with his students.

With his diverse background, he said, he hopes it inspires his students to do more with their lives.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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