Most students know him as the man behind the library desk, handing out Chromebooks and checking out books with a smile. But very few know he was a former Talon advisor or the Freestyle coordinator or an English teacher here at the school. He is a world traveler, an advertising specialist and a man who strives to do his very best for the students here.
Gordon Jack is not just your average librarian.
He joined the school last year as a librarian, but he has done much more than organize books on shelves and silence loud students.
“I try to think about how you can make the library be more than just a space [where] people use the computers or look for a book but that it can actually offer them some other things,” Jack said. “[The library] could actually help people with schoolwork, whether that is green screen or a large printer.”
He has utilized past experiences to develop the library in ways that directly help students who can count on Jack being there, working to support and provide whatever he can. As the newest Tireless Teacher Award winner, Jack has helped students become more aware of the resources they can use as well as giving them new resources to work with.
“A lot of my framework for teaching comes from advertising,” Jack said. “What I was trying to do as an English teacher at Los Altos…was sell [students] the book to get them excited about either reading the book or writing the paper.”
He got this advertising affinity from his first job at Grey Advertising after graduating Claremont McKenna College. Later he relocated to San Francisco, continuing his work participating in projects creating ads for companies such as Safeway and Bank of America.
Yet Jack was not satisfied, so he quit his advertising job and decided to travel to Spain. He chose Spain because it was hosting the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, where he figured there would have to be a job opportunity. Although the Olympics provided no help, Jack found an international school located in Granada, Spain, where he would teach for two years. This was not Jack’s first time travelling, as he had previously studied abroad in high school and college to Mexico and Argentina, respectively.
“Spain was the most dramatic [trip] because… I went just by myself and it was the first time I had to make a life all by myself,” Jack said. “I didn’t know Spanish all that well and I didn’t know anyone in Granada and I had to figure that out by myself. [That experience] more than any other tested me and shaped me just because it was the most challenging.”
While in Spain, he was accepted by Stanford for a teaching degree and returned to Palo Alto, the town of his former high school, to enroll. Once back in the Bay Area, Jack found a job in 1994 as an English teacher at the school. Since then, he has been the teaching instructor for new teachers for the district and the advisor for The Talon.
After a brief break from teaching in the MVLA District, Jack returned in 2002 to found and direct the Freestyle program for the district with the superintendent at the time, Rich Fisher. He lead the program by creating the curriculum and finding appropriate teachers for the material. His background in assisting new teachers assimilate helped him survey and select the most qualified candidates, and also allowed him to develop an effective use of the multimedia in the program.
However, he has taken a step back from teaching in order to spend more time with his family, particularly his young son, and now fills the librarian position. The events in his life have now enabled him to develop the library as much as possible.
Along with helping students make their projects more professional, he has made other resources in the library, such as the databases or the library’s website, more usable and easier to access. Jack is also capable of connecting with students in a much different way compared to when he was a teacher.
“Because this isn’t a classroom in the traditional sense you get to know students in a way that you wouldn’t in the classroom where the desks are in rows and there is an organization for that learning environment,” Jack said. “Here it is a little looser and you get to know students in a different way which is great.”
Jack hopes to continue working in the library as the position allows him to remain an active part of the education and English learning system.
“[In the future], I hope the library will become a place where the relationships [between students and staff] will become a lot closer than any classrooms,” Jack said.