Profile: JAG Coordinator Turner helps students with job skills

by Jeremiah Edwards and Alex Smith/Staff Writers

Photo Caption: JAG students check prospective job-seeking students into the job fair on April 22.

Mr. Darren Turner shares his experiences as JAG Coordinator 

Q: How long have you been teaching JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates)?

A: This is my first year teaching JAG.  I began this position on July 5, 2021.

Q: Who was the most influential teacher in your life and why?

A: Looking back, I had many influential teachers throughout my school years.  But, the most influential people in my life were my parents and my mentor, former Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club, Jim Andrews.

Q: What’s your favorite part of being the JAG teacher?

A: JAG has given me the opportunity to work with juniors and seniors and, hopefully, pass on information that they will be able to utilize throughout their life.

Q: How do you balance your work and home life?

A: In the past, my career was pretty much my life.  By that I mean that I could not go anywhere without someone asking me a question that referred to my job and that I was basically “on call” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Since I left that career, I have had a much better balance in regards to work vs home.  When I am home these days, I enjoy my home life.  Of course, there are still times that I do work on items while at home. That is the nature of the beast in these type of positions.  

Q: What do you do outside of teaching JAG?

A: When I am not working on JAG, I spend the majority of my time at home with Michelle and our two rescue dogs, Bella and Jasper. and my daughter, Kayla, when she is around.  I enjoy working on puzzle books, watching sports and movies, and going to auctions.

Q: What is your least favorite part of being the JAG teacher?

A: Hands down, it is all the reports that I am required to complete for JAG and the state.  I would much prefer to use my time with the students.

Q: What is the most memorable moment in your teaching experience?

A: That moment has not happened yet – it will be when the seniors I currently have, graduate and move on to start their careers.

Q: Teaching can be a stressful job. What makes it worth it?

A: Honestly, I handle stress very well.  I had a lot of experience in my previous career in learning early on how to handle stress and not let it affect me.  I enjoy seeing my students work to improve themselves.

Q: What do you want kids to remember about you?

A: I do not necessarily want them to remember me.  It is more important that they remember the discussions we had over the career and life competencies we covered.  The students know that they will always be able to contact me for any advice or assistance they may need once they graduate.

Q: How have you handled teaching JAG during a pandemic?

A: I was fortunate that I really did not have to teach during the majority of the pandemic like most teachers.

Q: What do you want kids to learn in JAG? What’s your number one goal?

A: Students have 37 competencies dealing with career and life issues that are covered in JAG I.  We have many important competencies that are covered, but the most important to me is not actually one of them.  My number one goal for every student is to know that they can have the career that they want to have – it might take a lot of effort, a lot of time, and a lot of preparation. (Hopefully, they use the lessons learned in JAG to find that career.)

If you find the career that you want and it makes you happy, then you will be a success.  Success is not always fame or fortune; success is determined by each individual’s own definition.

Q: How do you keep the kids engaged?

A: I hope that I keep them engaged by changing up their class activities.  

We have defined times in which I lead and times in which the students lead.  Students are given many opportunities to lead (entire class or small group), to give their input and ideas and to collaborate on projects.

Q: What is your favorite lesson or activity to do with the kids and why?

A: My favorite activity with students is any time we have discussions, no matter the topic.  This is two-fold. I can actually find out if the lessons we worked on actually sink in and it allows me the opportunity to learn more about each student.

A couple students share their experiences with JAG and Mr. Turner.

What is your favorite thing about JAG with Mr. Turner?

Jonah Hord: Learning world problems and solutions 

Megan Clark: I love how helpful Turner is. Asking him for help, even if it’s 15 times, is super easy!

What does Mr. Turner do to help you learn?

Jonah Hord: He talks with us personally, to make sure we know 

Megan Clark: Turner is patient and doesn’t mind explaining how things work. He does fun games and lets us run the class sometimes.

What is your least favorite thing about JAG with Mr. Turner?

Jonah Hord: Learning all the finance stuff, i find math boring 

Megan Clark: I honesty don’t have a least favorite thing about his class. If I had to choose, it might be the deadlines. He’s understanding though, so it’s never really the worst thing about that class!

What does Mr. Turner do to make JAG fun?

Jonah Ward: He’s gets involved, makes things more personal, makes it feel like its a student to student interaction instead of a teacher to student interaction 

Megan Clark: To make class fun, he lets us lead to discussion. He also gets us involved in interactive games and away from the tablet. It’s refreshing to not be staring at a screen for an hour and a half.

Tell me a memorable story about JAG with Mr. Turner.

Jonah Hord: Probably when we went to the students in action leadership program, it was a lot of fun, we did breakout sessions and games 

Megan Clark: My favorite story is probably when we had to analyze bigger vs. smaller pictures. We did a guessing game where was had to figure out how they knew what color we choose, and I got super into it!!

What will you remember the most about JAG with Mr. Turner after you graduate?

Jonah Hord: The fun we had in the classroom. 

Megan Clark: I’ll probably remember how understanding he was. I’ve had a class with him every year for the past 4 years of being here. I grew very fond of coming to him with most of my problems. He’s not difficult to get along with, and he is super chill. I’ll definitely be missing morning meetings with him and the JAG association.

What has Mr. Turner taught you about in JAG this year?

Jonah Hord: I learned how to write a resume, cover letter, and reference sheet. 

Megan Clark: Turner definitely helped me learn more about communication and hard work this year. If there was anyone in this school who held me accountable it was him. I looked forward to his class, and I would recommend him in a heartbeat. I learned how to compose myself without losing my cool is bad situations, and I learned how to set deadlines for myself and how to stick to them.