The teacher appreciation train rolled into Hardin Valley Academy to see Mr. Jared Huisingh (pronounced Hi Zing…it’s Dutch). We enjoyed a delicious spread from Maple Street Biscuit Company for breakfast, which we ordered online! Mr. Husingh is an English Language Arts specialist in the classroom but as you will read below, he is a man of many talents.
Adam: Where were you born?
Jared: I was born in Raleigh, North Carolina but interestingly enough I grew up in Europe. When I was 1, I moved to Sweden and when I was three I moved to the Netherlands. Then when I was 11, I moved to back to Sweden until I was 15 and my dad said “I got a job in Knoxville.”
Adam: What was your middle school mascot?
Jared: That is a great question. I don’t believe our middle school had a mascot because there were no school sports [in Sweden].
Jared: There was academics and there was gym but there was no need for a mascot because there were no sports.
Adam: So when you came here, what was your high school mascot?
Jared: The Rebels, the West High Rebels.
Adam: What college did you go to?
Jared: So I was recruited from West High School to play rugby at UT (Knoxville).
Adam: What did you major in?
Jared: I got my undergrad in English Literature and my Masters Degree in Education, all from UT.
Adam: How many years have you taught?
Jared: I am entering my 10th year if you count my internship.
Adam: I count it!
Jared: That’s teaching for free. Actually, that is paying to teach!
Adam: Why did you get into teaching?
Jared: I think the biggest reason I got into teaching is that I had a really terrible middle school teacher who would use public ridicule to teach. She belittled me and made me feel small. I was this ‘Oh yeah’ kind of kid…’I’ll show you!’ So you could argue that her motives were effective because she gave me my purpose in life, which was to be better than her. But what it really comes down to is, I have always wanted to help people and use the charisma I have to do the best that I can to help those around me and I feel like that is a central ethos that I have. And in order to help people, I thought that teaching was the best avenue to do that. I have thought that since I was 12. So here I am!
Adam: What clubs do you sponsor?
Jared: I sponsor the Ethics Bowl.
Adam: What would you do if you weren’t teaching?
Jared: I like to make things. I like to build stuff; maybe carpentry. Perhaps more logically though, a restaurateur.
Adam: When you say more logically, tell me more about that.
Jared: So my wife and I have a little side project where we are silent investors in a Nashville restaurant.
Adam: What is the theme of the restaurant?
Jared: It is a soda shop with Americana: ice cream, burgers and floats. Everything has old diner charm with red booths and metal seats…it’s really classic.
Adam: What is the name of it and where is it?
Jared: It is called Elliston Place Soda Shop (http://www.
Adam: Who was your favorite teacher when you were a student?
Jared: I had two favorite teachers. One was Ms. Shannon Jackson, who is now the Director of Curriculum & Instruction for Knox County Schools and the other is George Ashe, who is now an assistant principal here at Hardin Valley Academy. George Ashe was my senior year English teacher and he brought out a lot of creativity and enthusiasm in his lessons. He dressed up in burlap sacks for Beowulf. Mr. Ashe showed me that you can really have fun teaching. Shannon Jackson was the first teacher to recommend me for any sort of class beyond college prep English. She saw in me the potential to take the next step and the next step was George Ashe in dual enrollment English. After that, I was hooked. They really lit the fire for English and gave me a passion for reading.
Adam: Who is the best teacher you have taught with?
Jared: That is complicated because I have the philosophy that anyone I meet, I can learn from them. That includes students, so I think the best answer is the students because if you are not learning from them, then you are not doing this right. To name some teachers, I have received help from Amanda Wash, Carleen Lewis; they are incredibly helpful. Jennifer Driskill has been very supportive. In fact, the entire English Department at Hardin Valley Academy just took me in once I got here [from Karns Middle School and before that, Carter Middle School] and they are such an eclectic group of geniuses that it is hard not to be inspired when you are working here.
Adam: Have you earned any professional awards?
Jared: I have. During my middle school tenure, I received the PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association) Knox County Teacher of the Year award, which then translated into also winning the PTSA Teacher of the Year award for the state of Tennessee. I believe that I was Teacher of the Month for Star 102.7 FM, which is a student selected award.
Adam: That’s good! I am proud of you.
Adam: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Jared: Striving. Striving to be a better man. I think that it is a question we tell kids to think about a lot, ‘what can you can do to better yourself?’ The thing that I am most proud about is always being mindful of improving myself. Whether it be through learning a new skill, making a new thing, teaching a kid a different way, expanding my mind with new activities, always being open to change. That is the accomplishment, personally, that I am most proud of. We can dust off records and put those back on the shelf but time makes rust out of all of that. The only thing that continues is us as individuals. So my personal goal is to continue to strive.
Adam: What do you consider a successful student to be?
Jared: So in the same vein as striving, I think it is a kid who is not afraid to fail. A kid who can look at a challenge and and see it for what it could be, not necessarily for all of the failures that are in it. But if a kid comes to me and says, ‘I really messed up on that assignment, what’s the next one? I got this!’ To me, I can work with that student. That student comes to me ready to go. Part of that I learned from rugby because it wasn’t about how hard I could hit you the first time. It’s can I go 80 minutes, get up out of the dirt and keep coming. And at the end of those 80 minutes, we’ll see. So there is a lot of credit that I have to give to rugby for helping me understand perseverance and that kind of grit. If I have the kind of student who can show that grit, that is a successful student.
Adam: What improvement would you most like to see made to public education?
Jared: In educational research, one of the most consistent things they say is that classroom size is a big indicator of learning. So if the world were perfect, we would have fewer kids in each room. More schools spread out with 15/16 kids in a classroom as opposed to 36. I think that would add a lot of equity into our system for all. And I think that if we can really be mindful of education like we value athleticism and other things then we could invest in the future to allow all of those buzzwords to find a place. We talk about differentiation and trying to reach each student but we avoid the elephant in the room, which is the sheer number of students in the classroom and how daunting that is. In order to create a system with broad scale improvement I would say we need more [smaller classrooms] and we need to value the educators and the students and the parents in the community so that they feel a part of the system.
Adam: I think what we will see with that small group dynamic is a lot more interaction from kids who would otherwise just blend in. It will draw them out and be all the difference in their life.
Jared: I really wish I could say that it was hard to hide in a class of 36. I try my hardest to be in front of every student, every day, to say, ‘hey, how are you doing? I see you, glad you’re here,’ but sometimes I think you are forcing a social interaction. If there were 16 students, I can just sit there with one of them and say, ‘how have you been?’ Tell me what you are struggling with.’ Just that moment to be personal as opposed to being on stage and I think that would add a lot of value to a public education.
Adam: What is something that you could use in your classroom?
Jared: A mobile, diverse selection of reading material. If we are going to create readers that want to read…it’s great to teach the classics but it is also important to reach them where they are by providing reading materials that will engage them. When a kid falls in love with Harry Potter…great! Keep reading! Keeping reading because it doesn’t matter what we are reading; it only matters that we are reading. You want to read comic books or graphic novels, do it! I read them too. I still read them and I have a collection on my bookshelf. Wouldn’t it be great if I could provide a kid that is really into the Marvel movies the source materials so that they could be nerdy with it and say, ‘according to the comic books…” That would be great. If a kid walked into a room and saw that they identified with a book because it is about their culture, not simply about some dead, white guy. Not to say that all we teach is dead, white guys, but it’s largely that way. So a little diversity and a little eclectic reading material can be beneficial.
Adam: So if someone wanted to provide you with that reading material, what would be the route?
Jared: I suppose they could leave books in the front office and just leave my name on it. I could slowly compile my classroom library.
Adam: What hobbies do you have?
Jared: I like to make things. I like to make things in my woodshop. I really like to draw but I am not great at it. I like to draw superheroes because I am a huge nerd. I have a little Instagram account (@huisingh/) where I post drawings that I have made. Sometimes I make movie props, as the Captain America shield on my wall might indicate.
I recreationally pursue one game of rugby each year where I hope to not die.
Adam: Just to see if you still got it!
Jared: Yep! Just to see if I can still breathe at the end. Also, I really like to cook with my wife. A lot of the time we have together is dinner time. I try to value the time we have together in the kitchen as opposed to looking at it as a chore. That has really improved the hours we have together. So cooking with my wife is another hobby that I have.
Adam: What is a good way for a student/parent to spoil you?
Jared: Coffee! Coffee is my lifeblood. Coffee is a great way to spoil me.
Adam: Where is your favorite cup of coffee from?
Jared: Hmmm…I have taken to drinking my coffee black so Gevalia coffee grounds. I just brew it and drink it all day. Starbucks is also a solid choice because it is on the way [to school].
We will send you the Hardin Valley Coupon Book.