YORK COUNTY, Pa. — Tyler Spangler’s first college class is less than a couple of weeks away, and he’s pretty calm about it, even though he’s still in elementary school.
“We don’t have much homework,” he said with a shrug.
Well, St. Joseph School’s social studies class in Dallastown, Pennsylvania, might not have much homework, but Penn State York’s calculus with analytic geometry course likely will.
Math is fun work for 12-year-old Tyler, though, so go ahead, bring on the problems.
He solves equations in his head. "They want him to write down the steps, and he says, 'What a waste of time,'" said his mother, Barbara Spangler, laughing.
Tyler didn’t talk until he was 5 years old, but he was already adding and subtracting three-digit numbers. His teachers at a different school thought he might be autistic, said his mom, but she knew better. He had a gift for math.
His straight A's and gift with numbers led Spangler to suggest that Tyler take the ACTs, a standardized test used for college admissions.
Spangler thought his ACT scores would show them what he needed to study harder. Instead, he passed the test. She thought: Why not enroll him in college? High school seniors sometimes take classes; why not a sixth-grader?
After a rigorous process, Penn State York accepted him into calculus.
"We got an email saying, 'Congratulations, Tyler ... He was ecstatic," Spangler said.
"As Tyler is a unique student — we don’t usually have students that young … Anybody who’s not going to be a senior by the time they enroll, they have to go through a special process," said Ryan J. Service, director of enrollment services, admissions, for Penn State York.
That process includes approval from the school's faculty senate as well as a dual enrollment form and contract, official transcript, a standardized test score, and in this case, a math placement test, Service said. The math class Tyler will take would be the normal route for a freshman who wants to study engineering or the sciences.
"It's the highest math a student can place into by taking a placement exam," Service said.
Going to Penn State as a full-time student would require Tyler to graduate from high school first, Service said.
Tyler isn't focused on that now. His calculus class will end just in time for him to go on a Caribbean vacation with his great grandparents, Joseph and Elaine Semeister.
"He is God's gift to us, " said Joseph Semeister, a retired chemistry teacher who talks on the phone with Tyler daily.
Tyler is a master traveler. Spangler, a former executive, took him to Denmark, Ireland and Sweden as his Christmas gift.
"He's going to be exposed to everything, if I have my way," Spangler said.
Tyler is also a history and geography buff, avid reader, coin collector, a percussionist for a junior symphony, gardener (with his mom), and he loves the NFL.
He hadn’t been a pro football fan until someone asked about his favorite team. Moved to choose a team, he found one that fit his passion for his country.
“I was born in America, and I feel it’s the best country in the world with the Bill of Rights and the Constitution,” he said. So he’s all in with the Patriots.
His great grandfather is an Eagles fan, but don't mention the Eagles' defeat of the Patriots last year.
“My memory isn’t remembering last year’s Super Bowl,” Tyler said, joking. “Why? I’m choosing not to remember it.”
He has actually devoured books on retired Patriots' tight end Rob "Gronk" Gronkowski, quarterback Tom Brady and legendary coach Bill Belichick.
An avid reader, Tyler pulls books from his shelves on football, history and math. He even subscribes to the Robb Report, a lifestyle magazine focused on luxury items.
He has four career choices in mind:
- Entrepreneur — “and CEO,” he added. “I’ll have the highest percentage of stocks as well.”
- Commercial jet pilot: “They do get a decent amount (in salary) and free travel.”
- Mathemetician: Naturally.
- Physicist: ”Maybe quantum or theoretical quantum.” Choices, choices.
"I think he's going to change the world," Spangler said.
Changing the world is down the road. At this point, as he admits quickly, he's still a kid.
Do the math. This 12-year-old will enter York Catholic High School in the fall, but first, he’s headed to college.
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