Make Your Career Make A Difference
Jack Turner graduated from Canisius with a dual major in history and Spanish and became a teacher. He earned his M.Ed. through a fellowship with Notre Dame University’s Alliance for Catholic Education, and through the program, taught for two years at St. John’s School in Plaquemine, LA. St. John’s has been rooted in that community since 1853. In Plaquemine, many residents are St. John’s graduates. Students live in the neighborhood. Community events take place on its grounds. Turner learned that a school is a powerful community organization.
When he moved back to Buffalo, Turner brought the community-focused attitude he developed at St. John’s to Tapestry Charter School’s high school where he taught Spanish. The high school had been opened just over one year, and Turner had joined a genuine academic adventure. There was massive turnover. Turner and other eager young employees took on roles that in an established school would never have been open to them. Turner worked on school operations, planning curriculum, running events, and coaching. He loved it. He was part of constructing the school, creating a new community. They could make it whatever they wanted.
Turner found he enjoyed both the big picture and the small detail work of schools. His experiences at St John’s and Tapestry influenced him to change directions in his career. He still believes good teachers are a school’s best asset, but he found that his skills were better suited to administration. Turner returned to Canisius for the school building leader program. Most people complete the SBL program in one year; Canisius allowed Turner to do it much more slowly. “I intentionally dragged my heels,” he says. He wanted to pay attention to his studies and focus on his teaching and growing responsibilities at Tapestry.
Once Turner earned his SBL certification, he became assistant principal of the Tapestry Charter School’s elementary school. Canisius prepared him. His professors had decades of administrative experience in both urban and suburban schools. He learned to build curriculums, plan long-term units of study, establish classroom consistencies that allow students to feel supported and successful. He learned to hold people accountable. He developed an administrative mindset, which includes a long-term view.
“Education right now is under a lot of fire and tumult, but there has never been a time in which our schools need great people more,” says Turner. He sees the Jesuit mission of living as men and women for others as especially suited to education. He works to help children succeed, to support teachers and help them do their best, and to help families get the best for their kids. Turner says, “Canisius produces intelligent, motivated, passionate people who have an interest in community service and social justice.”