Many high school students, including myself, aren’t sure of their plans after graduation. Maybe you have a few ideas, you know you’re interested in a specific pathway, or you know you have certain talents that you could use in your future career. But you just don’t know where you’re going. You don’t know what path to take. Jared Eaton, sophomore biology teacher at Central Hardin, had this same problem.
Eaton’s Journey Finding a Career
Growing up in New Albany, Indiana and attending New Albany high school, Eaton lacked ambition. He wasn’t planning towards anything. Approaching senior year, he was still unsure of his future.
“It was getting closer and closer to senior year,” Eaton says. “Then all of a sudden it’s senior year, and I just began looking at the future and being like… ‘I guess I have to do something, don’t I?’”
I’m sure that sounds familiar to a lot of you in the class of ‘21 and the majority of us in the class of ‘22.
Sometimes it can be hard choosing a career pathway or college. A lot of us feel pressured to make the ‘right’ decisions and follow the ‘right’ path to make it to where we ‘need’ to end up. We feel like there’s a specific path to follow, as if there’s only one way life could take us. Eaton explains why this just isn’t the case.
“So when you get older, you have the opportunity to look back on your life and find junctions,” he said. “A point where you could have zigged instead of zagged, [wondering where life could have taken you.] In many cases, I’m not sure there is always a right or wrong answer. There is just the answer you decide upon and whether or not you follow through with it and pursue that.”
There were a lot of those pursuing moments in Eaton’s journey before he got to where he is now.
Eaton struggled finding the right college for him, but after visiting the University of Evansville, he fell in love. Being an introvert, he adored the small campus. Going into Evansville, he didn’t know what to study. After some time passed, he ended up getting his biology major, thanks to one of his high school friends.
“So I went into Evansville, and the reason I declared a major was because a friend of mine in high school named Mark Raisor said, ‘Jared, you would be a good doctor.’ So I’m like, I guess I’m a doctor now. That was the extent of why I declared biology as my major.”
He followed through with his biology degree, but when asked why he wanted to be a doctor, he had no answer. Eaton has always had a love for animals, so after deciding not to be a doctor, he stuck with his biology degree, graduated in 2009, and went pre-vet. Towards the end of his time at the vet clinic, he began regularly attending the North Park Baptist Church. He became the youth pastor, started the Upward Basketball league within the youth group, and while he thought he was just interning for the pastor, he ended up as the associate pastor. He stayed at this church for about five years, and all the while, his biology degree just sat on a shelf.
Leaving the church, Eaton was again unsure of what to do next. Not knowing where to go now, Eaton followed one of his friends and worked towards getting a teaching degree. Eaton reflected on his past jobs that he enjoyed– substitute teaching, being a youth pastor– and started to recognize a path that had set itself up.
“There was never a moment in my life when I had any idea I would be a teacher. But I can see the theatre background, and the biology degree, and the working as a youth pastor. All of those things just converged into this job.”
Eaton’s Values as a Teacher
Eaton got his Master of Arts in Teaching at Bellarmine University, and started teaching at Meade County. After teaching biology and anatomy for five years there, he started teaching at Central Hardin.
Eaton, as an introvert, finds teaching to be draining at times. He explains it like this:
“You have a pitcher of water, and I’m pouring water into 140 glasses every day. And by the end of the day, mine’s empty. I have nothing left to give, so I have to go home and refill a little bit.”
The way he “refills” is by keeping hobbies, and taking naps after a long school day. One of his main hobbies is doing theater. Eaton did theater throughout school, stopped after high school, and picked it back up around 2012. When asked if he would ever do theater instead of teaching, he says teaching is his main priority and he likes to keep theater as a hobby.
As a sophomore, you may have sat in Eaton’s biology class wondering, “when am I ever going to use this throughout my life?” Well, Eaton explains why sometimes the high school experience is more rewarding than the actual content you’re learning.
“High school teaches you a lot more than content. It teaches you how to be a part of a community, it teaches you who you are and how other people are, and those social skills are as important if not more important than some of the stuff you learn in a classroom.”
In his classroom, he tries to give every one of his students individual attention. Eaton isn’t just there to teach the content, but he’s there for you. He recognizes that Biology isn’t the main thing on our mind, and that we have things to deal with outside of the classroom.
“You guys have things you have to deal with outside of school. You guys have academic pressures, social pressures, parental pressures, you guys have a lot on your plate.”
He does the most he can to be there for his students and to support them, sometimes taking a comedic approach to accomplish that.
“I try to do what I can to do my job but also to be there for you in those moments when you need encouragement, or need someone to talk to, or just to laugh at an idiot who’s acting stupid in front of his class. If that’s what I can offer you, then I’ll offer you that.”
Eaton emphasizes that no content or new “philosophies of teaching” will ever change the fact that he is teaching high school students. He says that high school students will always be high school students. Even through the pandemic, through endless NTI days and Google Meets, Eaton knows that he is teaching high schoolers, and that’s the only thing that matters.
“No matter how technology changes, no matter what philosophies are in the air, high school kids are high school kids. And if I can focus on working with them, and building into them– everything around that is just there.”
As his focus is mainly on his students, Eaton says he tries his best not to stress about the more technical aspects of his job as a teacher.
“There are parts of my job that require my full intellect, and then there are parts of my job that I have to do. And those parts that I have to do, I try to not stress over. Because high school teenagers are worth stressing about, and almost nothing else related to my job is. I will do the things I’m required to do, but I try not to stress about those unless I have to.”
Eaton’s Advice to High Schoolers Choosing A Career Pathway
Eaton knows that choosing a career pathway can be a difficult and confusing process. Eaton wants you to know that high school may put a lot of pressure on you, but he feels that these pressures are more “perceived than actual.” He explains that after high school, once you go to college or whatever you want to do after you graduate, what you did in high school doesn’t really matter anymore.
“What high school prepares you to do is high school… When I got into Evansville, my high school grades didn’t matter. My high school friends didn’t matter. The classes I took in high school didn’t matter, because what mattered was what I was doing then. And I don’t think that diminishes the importance of high school because high school teaches you a lot more than content.”
Eaton says that having a goal is always important. He also advises that you take as many opportunities as you can. He explains the importance of taking chances and not letting them pass you by.
“Keep your head on a swivel, because man, life passes you by so quickly. And it’s so easy to get caught up in the ride of ‘I’ve gotta get from point A to point B’ and you miss all the cool things that are there along the way.”
One final takeaway is that life will take you on a path and it will involve a lot of those ‘zigs’ and ‘zags’ Eaton told us about. He wants you to know that it’s okay if you’re unsure of where you’re going, and that you’ll end up where you need to be, no matter how many ‘zigs’ or ‘zags’ life throws at you.
“Students who are being told, ‘This is the direction you have to go,’ or ‘You’re declaring your major,’ or ‘All of these decisions are deciding your future,’ I think that they can lay the groundwork for it. But things just aren’t set in stone like that. I know a lot of people who have changed their major many, many times. And while I never changed my major, I changed my focus three different times.”
Remember not to put too much pressure on yourself, and take as many opportunities as you can throughout your journey. You’ll end up where you need to be, and in the meanwhile, focus on what you can do now to prepare yourself and have a goal in mind. Coming from his own personal experience, these are the things Eaton suggests for you. Now you can move on, taking what you’ve learned from his journey and making your own.