Alumni, People

Graduate worked in private industry while achieving teaching dream

June 07, 2022
BY GERRY RUCCHIN

Education alumnus Jack Roach (BEd’74) realized in high school he wanted to teach. However, he didn’t realize his career would take unexpected turns. In the end, his dream of being a teacher was fulfilled but not in the way he planned.

Roach grew up on a farm and attended a one room schoolhouse for his elementary education. While Roach’s classmates also came from a farming background either as farmers or farm dealers, Roach decided early on he didn’t want to take over his family’s farm.

“That decision was my first change in direction in my life and led to all of the other changes that came afterward,” he said. “I believe my rural background was a defining influence in my life.”

Roach’s dream of teaching began as a mathematics student at Leamington District Secondary School in southwestern Ontario. While focusing on becoming a math teacher, Roach thought his road to the classroom would continue through the University of Windsor where he studied math. However, his first detour occurred when he took a computer science course – he loved it.

It changed his career path.

After completing his mathematics degree, Roach entered the computer science program where he also graduated from the University of Windsor.

He still wanted to teach and was accepted into the Western Education program. But now he wanted to be a computer science teacher.

New career brings frustration

Roach accomplished his mission when he began teaching high school computer science after graduating from Western. Instead of joy at his new job, he found disappointment.

“The computer science curriculum in the early 1970s was terrible,” he said.

Roach was teaching an introductory computer programming course. However, the school didn’t have computers for students. To complete assignments, students used a pencil to mark a sensing card. If their pencil mark was just outside the area, the card was rejected when the computer read it. As a result, he had to give “bad feedback” because he couldn’t determine if students gave the correct answer.

Over the course of a 16-week semester, students completed on average only three assignments.

“I was disappointed because I went in with the idea that I could really teach them programming,” he said. “At the end of the course I was really only teaching them how to write within those little bars on the card, so I made the choice to leave the high school environment.”

He left teaching to work in Toronto and then moved to Windsor to start another job. However, he still wanted to teach as he used his skills to teach co-workers how to use their computers.

Getting back into teaching

Roach’s third unexpected turn was in Windsor when he applied for a computer science teaching position at St. Clair College.

He was hired and began a two-year teaching odyssey. He enjoyed teaching at the collegiate level, but his situation changed for the fourth time.

“A headhunter that I had contacted maybe five years previously started calling me asking if I was interested in interviewing with a client that he had,” Roach said.

Roach decided to interview with the client – the Ford Motor Company of Canada.

He was offered the job as a Senior Systems Analyst while travelling home from the interview.

“I called and they said what kind of money do you want to start with, so I just threw out double what I was earning at St. Clair College,” Roach said. “They didn’t even bat an eye and said, ‘that’s good.’”

Roach thought his teaching career was over when he accepted employment at Ford. However, when he presented his resignation to his supervisors, they offered him a part-time teaching position.

Roach juggled teaching duties at the college while installing software at five automotive plants.

“I love teaching,” Roach said. “I worked at Ford for 25 years and I was teaching part-time at St. Clair for 19 of those years.”

Roach credits the skills he acquired at the Faculty of Education for handling two jobs at once. Learning organization skills, including lesson planning at the Faculty, helped him focus.

Teaching was a satisfying experience

His teaching success was based on listening to students. This is what makes a good teacher, Roach said.

Looking back at his teaching career, Roach’s satisfaction was seeing his students graduate with their diploma in computer science.

“Whenever I saw one of my students succeed, it felt so good. I did something that was great for them.”


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