MHS staff follow different career paths to end up as educators

Laurel Wang | The Chronicle

Mason High School (MHS) staff have taken many stops along their journeys to the classroom.

Associate Principal of Teaching and Learning, Robyn Jordan, is a prime example. Jordan currently spends her workdays supporting staff and students, but she found her start as an amphibian and reptile researcher with the National Park Service.

Jordan initially wanted to pursue medical school, but after realizing that was not her passion, she shifted her focus to opportunities with her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology. As an undergraduate, she connected with a herpetology professor researching amphibians and reptiles. She went on to graduate school and worked as a researcher in his lab, where she conducted field research in the National Parks.

“I had to decide what exactly I was going to do because I didn’t want to have to undo every class that I’d taken,” Jordan said. “In [graduate school], I joined a lab and was doing research on salamanders in an abandoned mineshaft.”

When she was not researching, Jordan discovered a passion for education as a teaching assistant. After earning her Masters in Biology, Jordan completed additional courses to receive her teaching license. She taught math and science for the next nine years, and began taking on leadership roles. After completing her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, she transitioned to administration.

“Even though I did teach biology at the high school level, I feel like I had this completely previous life working for the Park Service and catching amphibians and reptiles,” Jordan said.

Although Jordan’s resume spans several fields, her decisions have been guided by a common purpose. While teaching, Jordan identified her purpose to be positively impacting others, and over the course of her 20 years in education, she has consistently made professional choices that broaden her impact.

“Thinking about all the people that I’ve interacted with – the students in my classroom, all the students I interact with in the hallways, students that are on teams that I help support and all the teachers that I’ve helped – brings me joy,” Jordan said. “The work is not always easy, but knowing that even if there’s just one person that day that I’ve impacted in a positive way, I’ve still made a difference and lived out my purpose.”

Jordan is not the only MHS staff member to find an unconventional route to teaching. Social studies teacher Dan Broaddrick had always had his sights set on education after discovering a passion for history in high school. While pursuing his Bachelor Degree in Secondary Education (BSED) at Bowling Green State University, Broaddrick became involved in ministry work with high school students. Broaddrick said he was approached to join the church due to his influence in the community.

“I spoke at one [church retreat], and as I watched the room and the audience, I saw something that was just supernatural,” Broaddrick said. “That’s when I made it official and went to my academic advisor and said, ‘I’m not going to be a teacher. I’m going to go a different route, so what are my options?’”

Broaddrick completed his degree in secondary education, but did not get certified to become a teacher right away. Instead, after graduating, he spent time working at a freight company and as a pizza delivery driver before becoming a youth pastor at the United Methodist Church in Urbana, Ohio. After several years as a pastor and church planner, Broaddrick ultimately left the ministry after the church he worked at closed. He took a job teaching driver’s education at night, where he rediscovered his passion for education.

“It reconnected me with the age group that I felt like I worked best with”, Broaddrick said. “If I could make this dry content engaging, maybe this was what I was supposed to be doing.”

Broaddrick revisited his original plan to become a high school teacher, earning his teaching accreditation within months. By the next fall, he was certified to begin teaching as a long-term substitute at Mason, which ultimately became a permanent teaching position. Throughout all his years in education, Broaddrick said that facilitating his students’ growth has been the most rewarding aspect of teaching.

“I think I might have been a decent teacher had I just gone right into teaching, but I don’t know that I would be as caring of a teacher as I am now,” Broaddrick said. “You’re in the life-changing business of helping young people as they go out to change the world.”

MHS computer science teacher Gideon Dudgeon also traveled a unique career path to get to where he is today. Dudgeon joined the Army three months after graduating high school, where he developed an interest in technology. While with the military, he was stationed in South Korea and various parts of the United States. After five years in the military, he took a job with defense contractor Raytheon in Virginia and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Systems while working full-time. He eventually moved back to Ohio and worked as an information technology (IT) director for Great American Insurance in Cincinnati.

After nine years in his role in technology, Dudgeon shifted to business, running a franchise of Level Nine (L9) sports – a store that sells sports equipment. While running L9, Dudgeon also began to substitute teach before pursuing his teaching license through classes at Wright State University. After completing additional education courses, he also completed his Master’s in Education and received his normal teaching license.

Despite deviating from his initial plan to serve in the military for twenty years before entering education, Dudgeon said his time spent working in the field of technology before returning to the classroom provided him with the experience needed to guide his students in their careers.

“I’ve worked in various roles in technology at various companies, so I can give [students] advice on how things work outside of the educational part,” Dudgeon said. “You can [teach] things that happened in theory, but my advice to them is real-world because I’ve actually done it and worked in that environment.”

Ultimately, Dudgeon believes the nonlinearity of his professional path provided him with valuable opportunities for development. Whether it is working in an abandoned mineshaft, for the ministry, or in the military, Jordan shared a common perspective: every job she had was a learning experience.

“Because of all the experiences I’ve had, I am able to shift perspective better and gain empathy for the things other people go through [more],” Jordan said. “We’re all gonna make mistakes, and I still don’t have it all figured out, but these experiences have helped me broaden my perspective [to see that] nobody’s perfect.”