Paul+Jarasek

Paul Jarasek

Paul Jarasek is one of the new teachers at WAHS this year, and is offering quite a lot of insight and perspective. He studied at Notre Dame, and got his bachelors in European History, despite teaching math at the moment. After that he got his masters in elementary education at Fairfield university, and took a test that certified him to teach 7-12 graders. Paul Jarasek first taught at a private school before this (St. Martin de Porres Academy, a school in New Haven). From there he got his certification to teach at public schools, teaching english, math and even religion. Paul Jarasek has definitely gone through some interesting things in his teaching career, and offers a new perspective towards the loss of tab and ways of teaching. 

 

Raley Baynes:

Why did you choose to teach math?

Paul Jarasek:

Because I had a really good math coach. Back when I taught in New Haven where I started out marriage and taught middle school math, she was just really good. She kind of taught me that math tends to be a lot of fun to teach, and that there’s more ways to teach math than how I was taught. I always kind of had to memorize things, and she taught me that you can actually teach math in a different way where you understand what’s going on, and that was really cool.

 

RB:

Were there any other classes that you considered teaching? 

PJ:

I was a European History major, and some of my favorite classes in high school were AP Euro andAP US history. I really love the stories that the teachers tell there, and history is the other subject I quite like, even though I’ve actually never taught it. I’ve taught English and helped teach science, and I’ve even taught religion, which I was not very good at, by the way. But I never got to teach history, which was definitely my favorite subject.

 

RB:

What University did you go to?

PJ:

For my undergraduate, my bachelor’s, I went to university Notre Dame. I was technically on the waiting list. But I got in. Yeah, so I got lucky. And then to get my teaching certification, because I was a history major, and I had to get certified.  I got a master’s in elementary education, from Fairfield University. And I later took a test that certified for math 7-12 so here I am. 

 

RB:

What is your teaching background? Where did you teach before?

PJ:

 I used to teach in New Haven, starting out at a “not for profit” private school  in downtown New Haven called St. Martin de Porres Academy. It was nice because you didn’t have to be a certified teacher to teach in the private school, which meant that I didn’t have to take all these teaching tests. So I kind of just learned the job as I went, which meant that I was a kind of terrible teacher. I taught there for five years, and that’s where I taught fifth through eighth grade. I taught mostly English and math, and a little bit of religion. That’s where I got my legs under me. Once I got my certificate, and I could teach public, they were not paying me very much at all. I was on food stamps for a while. It was insane. So I got better at teaching, and I bought a lot of little Caesars pizzas during that time ( $5 hot readys). That was like my life blood. After that, once I had this certificate I could teach in public school, and I could make much like five times the salary. Then I went to a charter school in New Haven called Achievement First, which is a very different school. The first school is all about emotions, like making kids feel welcome and making kids feel comfortable and building good relationships with the students. But the academics really suffered. There wasn’t much attention paid to how well they were learning. It was tricky. So there were a lot of teachers there who were just being friends with the kids, and there was no oversight to check that. That was kind of frustrating. So then I went to a new school, which was the exact opposite. It was, “we only care about the test,” and “we’re going to be super strict and not like kids because at all.” So when I was at that school I learned a lot about how to teach well, which was my goal, and I learned a lot about how I’m not very good at teaching. I learned I had a lot to learn. But there it was a difficult balance because it was really hard to make relationships with the kids as the administrators or the principals were very strict. But it was still a really good experience, I learned a lot about good teaching, how to move the class forward and teach kids. So after that, I met my fiance in New Haven, and she wanted to come back to Virginia, to UVA. She really liked Charlottesville. So I moved back here. While I was teaching at Achievement First, I took a test that certified me for 7th through 12th grade math. and so I can teach high school now. 

 

RB:

Do you have a different approach to teaching math compared to other teachers?

PJ:

I don’t know. It’s my first year. I haven’t seen any other math teachers teach. But one thing I’ll say is that I don’t like to be sitting down, ever. And if at all possible, I like to make it conceptual. I want you to understand what’s going on. Don’t just do it, because that’s the step, you should actually know what it means, like “what is this equation?” “Can you describe what it means?” “Can you show me it as a graph?” “Do you know how it translates” So a deeper understanding of this is big, but yeah, on my feet moving around the room, and keeping kids on their toes.

 

RB:

Do you like Western so far?

PJ:

Yes. I like it a lot.

 

RB:

Do you prefer it over the other schools you have taught at? 

PJ:

I do. I like teaching high schoolers. You can joke with high schoolers more. It’s fun.

 

RB:

Do you have any advice for kids who are just starting high school?

PJ:

If you’re struggling to make friends then I highly recommend joining a club or a sport, because that’s a great way to automatically meet people that have similar interests. It’s kind of like when you get older and you go on a dating app, and you can kind of filter for the types of people you’re interested in. Clubs and sports do that automatically for friend groups. So if you’re feeling a bit lonely, or you’re afraid to just reach out to meet people, try joining one of those things. That’ll give you an auto friend group. The other thing is, and this is more of a college thing for me. But if you’re having trouble with any of your classes now, reach out to the Learning Center and the peer tutors, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, because they can help you be much more successful and can give you a lot of advice and assistance. And now is the time to get ahead of that. You generally know which of your classes are kind of going to be harder or not as hard. So if there’s one that’s particularly difficult. Reach out to the Learning Center and tell your teacher now and let them do some tutoring and stuff.