Our Inspired Teachers: Herb Jahncke

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Every day Catlin Gabel teachers inspire their students. 16 faculty members talk about how they came to teaching—and what they love about their craft

From the Autumn 2012 Caller

Herb Jahncke, 3rd grade

Bachelor's in biology, Rollins College. Master's in teaching, Lewis & Clark College. At CGS since 2007.

 A course at the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in Maine, during the summer of my junior year of college, inspired me to work with kids in experiential education. One of the challenge course elements at my first job was a zip-line across a ravine. My role was to encourage and support the kids, sit them down on the edge of the platform with feet dangling in the open space above the ravine, and strap them safely to the zip-line. When they were ready to slide across the ravine, they would scoot closer to the edge of the platform, grip the line with both hands, drop off the edge and careen down the wire to the other side. One day, a camp director said to me, “Do you feel that sudden lurch in your stomach when they drop off the edge?” I replied that I certainly did. He said, “When you don’t have that feeling anymore, it’s time to find a different job.”

His main focus was on students’ physical safety, but I recognize that this simple rule still applies today. In outdoor education, the perceived and actual risks are what make the experiences so powerful. In indoor education, the risks are just as real and the stakes higher. We, as teachers, expect the students to take risks every day by sharing their thoughts, ideas, strengths, challenges, hopes, and dreams. We encourage them to seek out their developmental “edge” and reach a safe level of discomfort to learn and grow. As they do, I am right beside them, providing a safety line, and watching them take the risks and reap the rewards. If it ever comes to be that I don’t feel that visceral concern for each student as he or she pushes off on their own, it’ll be time to get another job.