Mike Leavey’s life is filled with magic. A fourth-grade math and science teacher at Woodholme Elementary School, Leavey thoroughly enjoys performing magic tricks for his students. He can make objects appear and disappear and uses magic mainstays such as card throwing, plate spinning and juggling to explain scientific concepts.
Leavey, 41, always had visions of becoming a teacher before starting a career in marketing. An Owings Mills resident, he graduated from Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, earned a marketing degree from Drexel University and followed that with a master’s degree in teaching from Loyola University Maryland.
Since transitioning into teaching eight years ago, Leavey has traveled all over the area performing for audiences as Professor Mike. He does birthdays parties and bar and bat mitzvahs, presents themed shows at Baltimore County and Carroll County Public Library branches and has regular gigs at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC.
And, as if he needed more to keep himself active, Leavey and his wife, Shauna, 39, are raising three children: a 12-year-old daughter and 8-year-old twin boys.
When did you start doing magic?
I started when I was in college and really started performing a lot after I graduated. I did a lot of straight magic: close-up cards and sleight of hand. But I put that on hold for a bit after my first child was born in 2005.
What made you transition from marketing to teaching?
At a certain point, I just got tired of the rigmarole of marketing and everything that comes with it. I wanted to do something a little bit more productive with my life, so I thought going into teaching would be a perfect fit. Around the same time, I really got into science demos and talking about science.
How did your show start?
As a kid, I always liked science. I was a big fan of “Mr. Wizard’s World” and “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” As I got older and my kids got older, I would do some stuff with them. Eventually, I thought the science aspect would be a good way to mix some of the magic that I had done. That’s kind of how the show evolved.
What do you typically cover?
As a teacher, I have a good understanding of what works well with different age groups. I’ve had audiences with kids around the age of 4 all the way up to age 11, and they really enjoy it. There are a couple of different shows and presentations. Some routines are matter-based, and some are density- and energy-based. We also cover everything from space to gravity.
How do you connect scientific concepts with magic?
I’ll think of a concept and ways to incorporate a magic trick into [that] concept. For example, with center of gravity, if it means producing something or doing a balancing act, I look for connections that work well. If there’s a direct link, such as kinetic energy and juggling, that’s great, because then we can really show that connection with angular momentum to the moment of inertia.
What do you hope kids gain from the show?
Hopefully, they’ll have a larger interest in science and might try some stuff [at home]. Or they’ll have an interest in magic. At the very least, I hope the kids have a good time for the hour we do the show and that they can laugh and have some fun. I get a lot of enjoyment, and it’s fun for me to present science in a new way, because the show is really a good mix of real science and magic. There’s all this stuff that kids are accustomed to, but talking about it in a scientific way really puts things in perspective.