Turlock High School English teacher Jared Jeffries has always had a passion for literature, and now his enthusiasm for the subject has trickled down to his students. This love of both teaching and learning hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Stanislaus County Office of Education, which recently named the educator as a finalist for the Teacher of the Year award.
Jeffries, who teaches the Expository Reading and Writing Course for seniors as well as Advanced Prep Literature and Composition at THS, is known around campus for his high energy in class and his tendency to connect themes in the classroom to real-life happenings. He was “honored” to be named a Teacher of the Year finalist, he said, noting that while all of the schools in town have exceptional educators, THS has a particularly talented pool in his opinion.
“The idea that they would pick me out of everybody...I was shocked,” he said. “This is a really big school and there are a lot of great teachers here.”
The Denair High School graduate earned his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, then went on to earn his master’s degree in Literature and teaching credential from Stanislaus State. He was inspired to become a teacher thanks to his mom, he said, who is an educator as well.
“I spent a lot of time as a kid in the teacher’s lounge, and really grew up in that environment and developed a love for literature,” Jeffries said. “If you’re giving me the opportunity to teach and discuss literature all day, I can’t ask for a better job.”
Jeffries tries to make class as engaging as possible for his students, tying classroom discussions about books they’re reading in class to movies that are in theaters, shows on television and even current events. His goal is to teach a class that he would want to sit in himself, he added, even going as far as trying out his students’ desks for periods of time to remind himself of the daily grind of high school.
“I’ve been out of high school for a while now and you forget what it’s like. It’s a long day, so I try to think about what they’re experiencing in my classroom and make sure they have opportunities to engage,” Jeffries said.
While it may seem like high schoolers have other things they’d rather focus on besides literature — like YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat or other forms of technology and social media — Jeffries’ approach is to embrace these innovations, rather than fight them.
“I feel like people these days — not just kids — have gotten really used to the idea where they want to consume content that’s highly interesting to them, and they aren’t willing to engage with things that aren’t immediately interesting to them,” he said. “I don’t know how to combat that, so I try to bring as much of that into my lessons because engaging things like film and media really go hand-in-hand with literature.”
When he’s not promoting enthusiasm for literature amongst his students through methods like film clips and YouTube videos, Jeffries also inspires students to be their best outside of the classroom, overseeing what he calls the school’s “marathon club,” and helping students train for the Modesto Marathon.
At the end of the day, whether he’s helping students jog or write, Jeffries believes that having passion for all that he does helps inspire students, and, in turn, our future leaders.
“The more kids have access to teachers who really get fired up about their subjects, the more successful they’re going to be. Being enthusiastic about something is really contagious,” he said. “You build a school so that you can improve a community and make sure kids are becoming better people by going there, then they go on to become the leaders of the city. With teaching, I’m always working towards something positive every day, which is a really good feeling.”
The Modesto Rotary Club and SCOE will honor Jeffries and the other 12 Stanislaus County Teacher of the Year Finalists and announce the selection of four as 2019 Stanislaus County Teachers of the Year at a Rotary luncheon at noon on May 7 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Modesto. The four selected as Teachers of the Year will each receive a $1,000 cash award from the Modesto Rotary Club Foundation and a $650 Nasco gift card. Mocse Credit Union also sponsors the event and provides funding for the awards, decorations and lunch for the student entertainers.