Each week, the #SpanningtheNeed podcast will present an “Inspirational Person of the Week’ and have a “Q & A” with one of its many gifted individuals and/or groups who are willing to go out of their own way to help others. This week’s featured as apart of our Teacher Appreciation Week is Jacob Reid from Austintown Local Schools. Nominate someone now.
Name: Jacob Reid
Position: English Teacher at Austintown Fitch High School
School District: Austintown Local School District
What made you want to go into the education field?
I knew pretty early on that I had the skills to make a good English teacher, and I think that’s really what pushed me to pursue education. I was a competitor in the Austintown Fitch Speech and Debate team, so I had the public speaking skills down. I had been a camp counselor in shooting sports for two summers which I enjoyed a lot, so I knew teaching of some kind was going to be in my future. It wasn’t until I was helping some of my friends with reading The Scarlet Letter that I learned I really liked teaching and mentoring people on literature and writing.
I also had some great teachers and mentors at Austintown Fitch that really showed me how much teaching could have an impact on another person’s life. They also showed me that teaching and learning could be fun, interesting, and even life changing. There are a number of former teachers who I hold in great esteem, and I strive to make a difference like they did for me.
What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful in education?
My colleagues. I’ve been fortunate enough to always have supportive colleagues no matter where I’ve worked in education, and they’re expertise and insights have been invaluable to me and my teaching. Even now, I have the pleasure of working side-by-side with some of the best educators in the state of Ohio, some of who were my own teachers when I attended Fitch as a student. I honestly could not ask for a better group of teachers to work with.
What is the biggest professional mistake you made along the way?
Thinking I had to be “Super Teacher.” When I was a student in college, I had these grand ideas of what my classroom would be like, and it all hinged on me selflessly sacrificing an insane amount of my own time and energy to do it. I told myself that was part of the job though and to just suck it up.
I made it to about October of my first year teaching with that mentality before I wanted to quit teaching forever. I was a mess. I was working long hours to try and create interactive and fun lessons for my students who were far below the skill level of their grade. I was trying to do that for five different classes, and three of those classes were outside my area of expertise. A majority of those lessons tanked for one reason or another. I thought I was the worst teacher ever.
Eventually, I accepted that my first year of teaching was not going to be a “Super Teacher” kind of year. When that happened, I felt a lot better about what I was doing. To this day, I resist the urge to be “Super Teacher” simply because I think it’s a really toxic expectation to set for someone. I’ve done a lot of reflection and growing when thinking about what it means to be a good teacher, and I know being “Super Teacher” is not a requirement.
What is the best advice you can give future educators or the public?
The one mantra I’ve had throughout my career that has helped me is BE FLEXIBLE. This has been invaluable to me because the only thing that is guaranteed in education is that nothing is guaranteed. Lessons are going to go haywire. Technology is going to stop working. You may teach one class one year and the next you’re teaching something brand new that doesn’t have a curriculum. Trust in your skills and knowledge, and learn to go with the flow.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently regarding your profession?
I’m not sure I’d want to go back and change anything at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some miserable experiences with teaching and some interesting teaching assignments. Teaching in rural Alaska was cold, harsh, and brutal on my mental health. But, it was a once in a lifetime experience that showed me first hand the needs and gaps in the education of Native people. Working in inner-city Cleveland was equally as tough for different reasons, but it taught me the disparities that exist in education based on race and income. Each experience made me the teacher I am today, and I don’t think I’d want to change any of that.
What song best describes you or is the soundtrack to your life?
It’s an odd choice of song probably, but “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” by Billy Joel is definitely one that has played in the back of my mind in certain parts of my life. The song explores the concept of hard work and questioning whether our goals are really worth the work we are putting into them. It’s helped me explore what was really important in my life and when it was time to start “movin’ out.”
What is your best accomplishment/experience in life?
My best accomplishment so far was making it through my first year of teaching. I decided right out of college that my first teaching assignment was going to be in rural Alaska, and it was a tough assignment. The first big hurdle was not being able to see my family. They are a big support in my life, so not having access to them was tough.
I was also teaching five different classes at one time that included two English courses, Gym, History, Health, and even Culinary Arts at one point. Mind you, my expertise is in English Language Arts, so I had to learn to be a Jack-of-all-trades when it came to planning curriculum and designing lessons.
When you combine that work load with the isolation and harsh living conditions of rural Alaska, it is a taxing experience. There were many times I wanted to jump on the next plane out of the village and quit. But I stuck with it, and to this day it remains one of my greatest accomplishments.
Who is your role model and Why?
My older brother Mike has always been the person I’ve looked up to throughout my life. He has been a constant source of advice, love, and support for me, and he has had a tremendous impact on who I am as a person today. Mike has never failed to make room for me at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee to discuss and advise me on life matters. Or, when I call him for advice, he always picks up the phone and makes time for me. His outlooks on working hard, the value of family, and taking the time to enjoy life are areas of my own life that I try to mirror with his. He is truly the embodiment of what it means to be a man in today’s society, and I’m sure I will never stop looking up to him.
If there was one person that you would like to meet, past or present, who would it be and why?
Robin Williams. Growing up, I watched many of Mr. Williams’ movies: Jumanji, Mrs. Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society, Patch Adams just to name a few. They were some of my favorite movies growing up because they never failed to impart to me some lesson on happiness or enjoying life. I’ve always been fascinated with Mr. Williams’ ability to make people laugh and be happy, and I’ve always considered humor as a great way to connect with people. If you watch me teach, you would probably see elements I borrow from him to make my lessons more memorable and interesting.
If I were to sit down with him, I’d honestly just pick his brain and try to get to know him as a person. Maybe I’d ask him some big ticket questions like “What makes something funny?” or “What can we do in school to make it more enjoyable?” Maybe we’d just make voices at one another and have a laugh. Either way, I’d be sure to tell him the world misses him. We need more people that make others smile, and I try my hardest to do that while teaching.
A favorite quote that you live by?
“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” – Walt Whitman, “O Me! O Life!”