The GPS Blog
Made by Teachers: The Importance of Role Models with John Ajagu, Instructor at Strattec Education Center in Milwaukee, WI
In many ways, teaching is the single, most important profession. GPS instructors are no different, working hard to teach core subjects alongside career skills and life lessons. In this series, we want you to get to know these important individuals who put so much time and dedication into their classrooms and into their students. Meet the teachers who are making students that succeed in their education and in their technical careers.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor once said, “When a young person, even a gifted one, grows up without proximate living examples of what she may aspire to become---whether lawyer, scientist, artist, or leader in any realm - her goal remains abstract. Such models appear in books or on the news, however inspiring or revered, are ultimately too remote to be real, let alone influential. But a role model in the flesh provides more than an inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying, ‘Yes, someone like me can do this.’”
John, a teacher, is doing just that.
“I try to make sure I’m always setting a good example because you ultimately become your own circle of influence. It’s important to have a circle of influence you can relate to. Growing up, I had a circle that I looked up to, sure, but I didn’t relate to them,” he said.
Teachers at GPS Education Partners are so much more than vehicles for curriculum to pass through. They teach vocational training and job skills. They teach soft skills and character development. And, most importantly to John, they serve as role models – knowing each student observes and learns from the adults in their life.
“Role modeling is important for me because when I grew up I didn’t get a chance to see people who looked like me, doing the things I wanted to do. I’ve been to school. I’ve been able to travel around the world. I’ve held really good positions. Now, I’m in the family man phase of my life,” John said.
He wants his kids to see him as successful but still fully relatable. Something they connect to and aspire to. “I’m still young and get to wear my favorite sneakers. I never had someone who related to me in that way. It's about high expectations and high support.”
He says there is a thing that happens, especially with African American young men, where they reach a certain level of success or education but they never come back to their hometowns. “I wanted to come back and make a difference for the place that gave me so many good -- and bad -- life lessons. So I did.”
After going to school in Cleveland and working for the Job Corps for two years, he returned to Milwaukee where he found his passion in teaching through GPS Education Partners.
“I get to see the impact I have on people, every day. That’s my favorite part. It’s almost immediate gratification. Kids are hard because you may have to say it four or five times before they actually listen, but when it clicks -- I get to be there. I get to see it,” he said.
With your help, teachers like John can be a great role model, holding each student to high expectations while giving high levels of support. Click here to support GPS Education Partners.