It was the lure of New Orleans that brought John Guzda over 1,200 miles to Jefferson Parish Schools.
“My wife and I were looking for a change. We wanted to move away from Buffalo and came down to New Orleans on a whim,” said Guzda. “I got the job in Jefferson Parish and quickly fell in love with the school and the system. I’ve been here ever since.”
That was seven years ago. If it was New Orleans that drew Guzda to Southeast Louisiana, his West Jefferson High students made the city home. The social studies teacher loves the diversity found in JP Schools, whether it’s the 50 languages spoken in the 51,000 student district or the various family and community cultures found in Louisiana’s largest system.
“You get to learn about the background of the kids, and when you learn about the background of the kid, not only do other kids learn from them, but you as an educator learn quite a bit from them,” said Guzda. “I really, truly believe that I learn more from my students than they learn from me.”
Guzda found his calling while serving as a teacher’s assistant in Buffalo Public Schools. Passionate about history, what he enjoyed even more was helping kids understand history and develop their own opinions. Guzada said seeing students’ curiosity validates his work and pushes him to improve. A colleague once told him that teaching is like golf, “where you can never play the perfect game.”
“Every day after every single lesson I think critically about what I can do better next time,” said Guzda. “I am always thinking about what I can do better next time so I can help my kids and be the best teacher that I can be for them.”
JP Schools offers numerous supports to help teachers improve in the classroom and advance in their careers. Guzda feels he benefits from the district’s various job-embedded professional development opportunities as well as the master teacher program, where seasoned educators help teachers improve their craft.
“The beautiful thing about working in Jefferson Parish is that you are never on an island,” said Guzda. “There are always multiple levels and multiple layers of support that a new teacher can go to for help.”
The district also allows teachers to move ahead in their careers without leaving the classroom. Guzda is part of the district’s Ignite Teacher Leader Fellows program. He works on campus to support other teachers with things like lesson plans, assessments, classroom management, or class procedures.
“Being a teacher leader fellow in Jefferson Parish and supporting other teachers, it’s improved my own craft,” said Guzda. “If I’ve been asked to be a leader on my campus, I have to make sure that I’m doing everything I can do in my classroom to be the best that I can be. Ideally, I want to set an example for other teachers around the district and in the school.”
Guzda’s dedication is seen by more than his peers. It’s evident to his students. And one of the most important truths in the classroom is that students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
“What I’ve found working in the district is students who believe in their teachers and who love their teachers, they’ll do anything for those teachers,” said Guzda. “And teachers who show the students that they care, that they are there for them, and they are going to provide them with support, the kids love them back.”