In his second year in the county education system, Jared Bennett moved from classroom to board office as the new Coordinator of Teaching and Learning for Pocahontas County Schools.
The position, formerly held by Christina Smith, will have Bennett wearing many hats as he assists teachers and the board office with curriculum, testing and other academic programs.
“My main focus areas are helping with all our academic competitions – like social studies fair, science fair – and then I’ll be our head in the county for the Leaders of Literacy campaign, which is the statewide campaign to get kids on grade level by third grade,” Bennett said.
Prior to transferring to the board office, Bennett was a Reading/English/Language Arts teacher at Marlinton Middle School.
“It was a tough choice [to change jobs] because I love teaching and I loved my students,” he said. “I loved being around them, but I felt I could do more to help out our county. When the position opened, I thought, ‘why not take a shot and see what I can do to help out in a bigger dynamic.’”
As coordinator of teaching and learning, Bennett will spend time in and out of the office – mostly at the schools – as he works with teachers planning academic competitions and work on curriculum.
He hopes to be a positive addition in bridging the gap between the central office and the schools.
“I want to help strengthen the bond between teachers and people who are out in the school, and the central office because everybody’s busy and it’s a stressful time for everyone,” Bennett said. “If I can do anything, it would be just to be a positive presence in the county for everybody and kind of bridge that gap between what’s happening in the schools and what’s going on at the central office.”
Originally from Richwood, Bennett traveled as an AmeriCorps volunteer. In Iowa, he met his fiancé, who was from Virginia Beach. They both decided it was time to move back to the east coast and they settled in Lewisburg.
It was Bennett’s work as an AmeriCorps which led him to pursue a degree in education, something he gave up when he went to college the first time around. Armed with degrees in history and geography, Bennett went back to school and got his teaching certification.
“In my time spent in AmeriCorps, I kind of ran this youth concert venue after-school program and so I got to be around kids all day,” Bennett said. “I also worked in the middle schools. I helped them do urban farms and stuff like that. I just really loved the experience. I loved being around young people and that’s how I got into it. I went back to school and got my teaching license.”
Bennett is glad to be back in rural West Virginia. While Pocahontas County wasn’t home, it does remind him of home.
“Part of the reason we moved back is because I didn’t feel a real connection with people outside of the state,” he said. “I wanted to come back and help small rural areas because that’s where I’m from, where I grew up, so I kind of wanted to give back to that.
“You don’t get into education for the money or anything else, you do it for a mission,” Bennett continued. I feel like I’m very purpose driven in what I’m trying to do.”