June 25, 2008

Pop Quiz a Personal Look Ate John Skinner

Vice principals often get the tough job of handling student discipline. John Skinner, assistant principal and dean at North High School, falls into that category.

Born in Milltown, Ind., he graduated from Crawford County Junior- Senior High School and attended Aquinas Junior College in Nashville, Tenn., on a baseball scholarship. He earned his bachelor's degree in business education from Middle Tennessee State University and his master's degree in health education from Eastern Kentucky University, where he worked as a graduate assistant in the basketball program.

In 1993, he came to Evansville to teach physical education, health and marketing and to coach basketball at Harrison High School. Since then, he has earned his license in secondary administration and his EDS from Indiana State University.

Skinner's wife, Tamara, is also an educator, and they have two children, Brittany, 9, and Katelyn, 7.

How do you handle disciplining students without undermining their self-esteem?

When students are in my office, I always treat them with dignity and respect, consistency and fairness. I treat every parent the way I would want to be treated, and every child the way I would want someone to treat my daughters.

Deans do deal with some difficult situations, but I always try to remember that students are children, and their situations are learning experiences. We all make mistakes.

What did coaching teach you about dealing with teenagers?

Coaching and teaching really go hand-in-hand. In coaching, you want to challenge students to use their talents to become better. In the classroom, it's the same. You strive to help each student to achieve to their potential.

Do you ever get discouraged? If so, how do you cope?

I rarely become discouraged. My motto is to have fun every day at work. When I am discouraged, it's usually because I have exhausted my options to help a student value the reasons education is important. Since I know how limited their options are without education, that can be frustrating.

Is there anything you wish you could change about parents or students today?

If there was one thing I could change, it would be to find a way to help every family see the value in investing in education. Sometimes it's difficult for families to see that when they are struggling with greater issues in the moment.

Have you seen students turn their lives around?

Every semester I see tremendous success stories, which is definitely the most exciting part of my work. In my work, a lot of the contact can be negative, so when students come back and say, "Thanks for making me work hard," it's truly an amazing feeling.

Another rewarding part of this work is seeing the growth that takes place in students over the years and watching them walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. Seeing the challenges some students overcome makes

me realize that any of us can overcome the obstacles to our goals.

Who inspires you?

My parents inspire me. As educators, they committed their lives to helping other people succeed, and that is the kind of person I want to be as well.

My mom was my first-grade teacher, and my dad was a teacher/ coach at the college and high school level.

What was your toughest day on the job?

My toughest days on the job are when students make poor choices that leave me powerless, because I have to make difficult decisions that affect their futures.

What kind of teenager were you?

I loved going to school and playing sports with my friends. I wasn't always an A student, but I was a hard worker.

I learned that work ethic from my grandparents, who farmed and owned the local grocery.

When I wasn't going to school or playing sports, I was stocking shelves and putting up hay.

What do you do for fun?

I like to spend time with my family and friends. I enjoy spending time at events where I can see our students being successful outside the classroom. I enjoy learning more about my profession and about innovative ideas in education. I also enjoy boating and being outdoors.

A great evening is one where I can eat on the patio with my family, enjoy the sunset, and watch my kids laughing and playing.

The Pop Quiz feature is compiled by Courier & Press correspondent Jo Ann Learman. To nominate someone, send information to [email protected]

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