The day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Andre Mountain decided to leave his financial trading job in New York to become a teacher in Georgia.
He said the attacks caused him to consider his purpose. He found it was to teach children. For the past several years, he's done that, and he recently receiving recognition from the governor with an appointment to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.
"Every day, I try to move mountains," he said, cleverly tying in his name with his mission.
Before Sept. 11, 2001, he said, he was going through the motions in a job with Merrill Lynch in New York, which he landed with the help of family there.
"It became a job that was so routine for me," he said, noting that he would tell himself: "I'm put here to do something more meaningful than this."
Then the attacks occurred.
"I saw all of the death and destruction," he said. "I said, you know, life is too short doing something you don't feel connected to and you're not passionate about."
Mountain said he put in his two weeks' notice with Merrill Lynch and returned to his hometown of Augusta, where he attended Tutt Middle and A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet schools. At first he applied to be a substitute teacher with Richmond County, but after hearing nothing he took a substitute job in Sparta, Ga., and then a full-time teaching position in Macon, Ga., through a Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy program.
He was later tapped to be a statewide ambassador for the program, which trains people from the business world to become teachers.
After three years in Macon, he made his way back to Augusta, getting a teaching job at Monte Sano Elementary School in 2005.
In 2008, he was voted the school's teacher of the year, and recently he has taken on a new systemwide role as a teacher on special assignment for social studies. He works with social studies teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade, advising them on ways to intrigue and guide students.
Mountain's work caught the attention of Gov. Sonny Perdue, who appointed him to the 16-member Georgia Professional Standards Commission in December. The commission oversees school program and teacher certifications and meets twice a month in Atlanta.
Mountain said he has found his mission in life, and he couldn't be happier.
"I really feel like that this is a situation where a person was able to actually get paid for something they were born to do," he said. "And it's not like going to work. It's going to help kids have a better learning experience."