Heroes don’t always wear capes. Sometimes they are behind a book, a desk, or in this case, inside classroom 133 in Calgary. James has been a teacher for about 12 years at a high school in Calgary. He teaches ES1, a specialized education program for students who might need more support in high school. There are 12 students currently in the program, and he works closely with them to build their academics, but he also focuses on helping them gain some work experience that will help them in the future. “I love teaching because teachers have an amazing superpower of what I like to call creating “AH-HA” moments when you get to see a student make a connection, understand something, or complete something they worked hard on. Seeing success achieved or seeing a student understand something they had difficulty with before is truly a fantastic experience. As a teacher, I have been taught two things that have always helped me. Number one: Progress, not Perfection – If a student keeps making progress, they are succeeding. And number two: There can be an unspoken rule to teaching, which is “I am more concerned with the person you will become than with the marks you will achieve”.
Growing up in a food-insecure home, Jacob has made it a priority to care for and feed the kids in his school. “I’ve always come from a bit of a conservative viewing background on things, and I found BB4CK reopen my mind to different things, it should never matter, the reason why [kids need food], it just shouldn’t matter. If the kid needs help, there’s help, and I am grateful for the program because it has made me realize that there doesn’t have to be a reason behind why a kid needs food. They need the food, and it is there for them. I see kids all the time, they come, and they get it, it changes them”.
At the start of every school year, the teachers meet, and they all agree that their goal for that school year is to help their students succeed. They know that kids with no food in their bellies won’t learn. They know that there are studies about it – “every teacher knows,” highlights Jacob. So, they have everything set up to support students, and they know what to watch for. If a kid is overly tired, coming to school in the morning completely and utterly exhausted, struggling to focus – teachers will team up and work towards supporting that kid to succeed. If kids need clothes, a shower, or food, they are there for them, helping them reach their full potential. Asking questions like: “Did you have anything to eat today?” is part of a normal conversation Jacob would have with his students every school day. “I think the biggest thing is a lot of people want people to justify their need for this [food]. We’re not here to do that. We make sure that this is not going to be a defining factor for that student. We don’t want a kid ever to think that his whole high school life is going to be without food.”
Being able to receive lunches from BB4CK is a support for teachers like Jacob, who emphasizes that “We are not just teachers; we’re like a partial parent, partial coach, partial therapist. And if we don’t have to be the partial chef, that takes a little bit of pressure off, and it makes us feel a bit better because that means we can focus on academics. Without forgetting that as a teacher, we know we’re going to be doing more than what we anticipated.”
Teachers are heroes who shape, support, and help their students and their families. They never give up. They want to give more and always make sure families know they can support them and help them. Heroes like Jacob wake up every morning with one goal in mind: “We will get these kids to the next level”.