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Teaching by example and relationship-building

For 21 years, Jerry Will has worked in the Farmington School District’s alternative and at-risk programs, helping to ensure that students get a shot at education, no matter their situation.

In addition to teaching classes, Will assists the principal at the W.L. Johns Early Childhood Center with enrollment and discipline. Will said a love of history is what first opened the door into the education career, which eventually landed him in the Farmington district.

“I always enjoyed history,” Well said. “That was a natural progression into education, through studying history. I became a teacher and wanted to teach history, but I got into alternative education in my first job. I enjoyed it and just stayed with it.”

Well has spent all 21 years of his career at the Farmington School District and said that the most important part of the job for him is forging relationships that allow for positive results in the lives of students.

“Interacting with the kids is my favorite part of the job,” he said. “Not to sound cliché, but the impact that you can have with kids that have had a rough life is important. Half our programming here at the alternative building is for kids that have been placed outside of the home by the state or by their parents.

“A lot of them have had a rough time educationally, behaviorally and family-wise. Being able to hopefully instill some information to change their course, help them get credits that they’ve lost by jumping from place to place or because they’ve gotten into trouble is part of that.”

Will said instructing at-risk and alternative students is not easy for all staff, but for those who are cut out for it, there is no more rewarding work.

“A lot of people want to say it takes a special person,” he said. “The number one criteria to work with kids in this line is the ability to form a relationship with kids that don’t want to have a relationship formed with them. You have to be able to see them misbehave—and sometimes it’s direct misbehavior toward you—but tomorrow’s a new day and we have to start over, not taking it personally.

“The relationship is the biggest part of it. These kids can be abrasive. Whether it’s the fifth grader who has been taken out of the home for the first time or it’s the senior who has five credits and no chance of graduating, they are both resistant for a different reason. Relationship-building is the biggest part of it.”

April's Featured Teacher of the month, Jerry Will of the W.L. Johns Early Childhood Center has been with the district for 21 years.

April’s Featured Teacher of the month, Jerry Will of the W.L. Johns Early Childhood Center has been with the district for 21 years.

Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at

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