Feature: New Special Ed Teacher and Golf Coach Jen Taylor Inspires M-A
Over the past year, those who have encountered M-A’s new special education teacher and boys’ varsity golf coach, Jen Taylor, have likely been inspired by her passion for helping students and the new energy she has brought to the school.
Taylor’s infectious positive outlook on teaching is not surprising given her own personal history.
Last year Taylor taught at Linbrook High School, and before that she taught at Oak Grove High School in San Jose. Taylor worked with the ILS program at both schools. While she was teaching at Oak Grove in San Jose, Taylor met her future husband Nick Smith, and the two were engaged in 2011.
One month before the wedding, Nick was riding a friend’s motorcycle and was rear-ended by a car, sending him flying “through pine trees and into a parked Ferrari” on the side of the street.
He suffered a shattered arm and a broken neck, leaving him paralyzed and technically considered a quadriplegic, due to his lack of strength in his hands and arms. Taylor considers the incident a blessing in disguise because of the amount she grew during the recovery time.
During her time teaching in San Jose, Taylor had a student named John in her ILS program for four years. After he had graduated, he reached out to Taylor and the two began talking.
Taylor quickly learned that John had been kicked out of his parents’ home and was living in his uncles’ car. According to Taylor, John’s parents did not accept that he had a learning disability, and just thought he was stupid, so they kicked him out. His uncle took him in, but only to take advantage of him.
John’s uncle was in a gang, and he would use John as his “lookout” and “mule” because John did not know any better, and “just wanted to have friends.”
When Taylor learned about this, she offered John “a warm bed to sleep in at [her] house on the weekends,” as long as he helped out around the house.
It didn’t take long for the Taylors to consider John their son. John would help Nick with the tasks that he could not perform due to his lack of hand and arm control. He could open tops and pick up items that Nick otherwise would not have been able to. John is now 20 and in college, pursuing a degree.
In addition to John, Taylor has two biological children; a 5 year-old son and a 7 year-old daughter. Taylor says that her children also help out around the house doing chores that her husband is unable to do.
Taylor says that she “considers her kids very responsible” for their age because they have had to learn to help their father. For example, both of her children were able to tie shoes at the age of 3 because Smith does not have the hand control to grasp a shoelace.
At M-A, Taylor teaches two math classes for the ILS program, a social academic communication class for students with Autism, a study skills class, and a functional math class for 10th graders to prepare them for algebra.
As a teacher and coach, she hopes “to be a positive adult role-model in students lives,” recognizing that “not all kids have an adult who has a positive influence on them.”
Taylor got her bachelors degree from Santa Clara University while on scholarship for golf. After Santa Clara, she got her teaching degree from Notre Dame de Namur, and shortly after began her teaching career.
Taylor says that she never planned on coaching boys golf, and actually offered to be the coach as a joke, that eventually turned into a reality. She was in the athletic directors office and saw a Titleist box and made a remark about golf to Mr. Kryger, who then informed her that the previous golf coach was not returning this year, and that he was in need of a coach. The conversation ended with Ms. Taylor as the new boys’ golf coach.
Coach Taylor hopes for a winning golf season this year, but more importantly she hopes to foster an enjoyable and meaningful team atmosphere. To her, the most important thing is “to make a positive impact in all the boys’ lives” by “giving them advice,” “teaching them to enjoy life,” and “letting [the golfers] know she cares about them.”
In addition to caring for her family, teaching and coaching, Taylor also competes in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a sport that requires her to train most weeknights and compete most weekends. She goes straight from school to golf practice, and then straight to training after that.