Jake Redmond tried the corporate route, but he couldn’t shake the unmistakable pull of wanting to mentor the next generation. 

It seems no matter what career path he chooses to take, all roads eventually lead back to the classroom for Jake Redmond.

Perhaps it’s because he learns so much from his students – from their entrepreneurial ideas to their takes on life – or because he relishes the idea of shaping the next generation. Whatever the reasons, Redmond, a high school teacher and 2022 graduate of George Fox University’s Master of Arts in Teaching program, has discovered that nothing brings him more joy or fulfillment than seeing his students thrive. 

As he sees it, it’s all about leaving a legacy.

“That’s the big question,” he says. “What legacy are you going to leave in your community? How are you going to impact those that you come across in the community and on campus?”

For Redmond, the answer is found in treating students with respect, actively listening to their hopes and dreams, and being willing to call them out when things go sideways. It’s a philosophy he adopted based on his own experience, thanks to a teacher who took the time to invest in him when he needed it most.

Shaped by a Mentor

James Redmond pointing at a whiteboard

The seed for Redmond’s love of mentorship was planted when he was a senior at Piedmont Hills High School in San Jose, California. A star quarterback and outstanding track athlete, he found he worked harder and was more motivated to succeed in classes taught by the teachers who attended his games. And when he got off track, one individual – an economics teacher – wasn’t afraid to call him out.

“He probably had the biggest influence on me becoming a teacher, as well as who I am as a person, outside of my parents,” he says. “He would call me out a lot. I was the star athlete, and whenever I was doing something he didn’t feel was in my best interest, he would sit there and tell me all about it. I would think about what he said and then try to do everything to make things right.”

Those heart-to-heart encounters shaped him and served as a model for how he approaches his current role as an educator.

“When it comes to teaching, it’s not about me – it’s not my own personal ego – it’s about students,” he says. “That's the most important thing to me, and it always has been.”

An Unlikely Proposal

His journey into education has been one of twists and turns. As a junior at San Jose State University, he began working with at-risk students in a homework club after school. It ignited a flame inside him that continues to burn to this day.


“What got me was the joy – the joy those students showed when we showed up,” he says. “They would come up to us and say, ‘What are we going to learn today?’ That excited and energized me.”

That, in turn, led to an opportunity a year later to mentor kids and coach football at his high school alma mater. He enjoyed the experience, but, feeling the pull of joining “corporate America,” he pursued a position in marketing. A move to Oregon landed him a position at a large tech company, but the opportunity was short-lived: The dot-com bubble burst of 2000 resulted in a layoff. He returned to California to coach high school football.

Teaching, however, still wasn’t part of the plan – until yet another mentor spoke plainly to him.

“Our principal came out and watched one of our practices, and noticed something in me,” he recalls. “He saw how detail-oriented I was and how I treated the kids. Next thing you know, he says, ‘You know what? I want you in the classroom.’ I told him I didn’t have a teaching credential, to which he said, ‘We’ll get you an emergency credential. I believe you can manage the classroom. You can coach, so you should be able to teach.’”

The proposal resulted in a 10-and-a-half-year career as a special education teacher. And yet, as much as he loved it, he needed a break. He earned an MBA and returned to the corporate world. All along, however, he lacked a sense of purpose. It was at that moment he had an epiphany: Teaching is a part of who he is.

“I discovered that working with students, being a part of helping them change their lives, was more important to me than working in corporate America,” he says.

“My wife knew it all along. Years ago, when I was doing the corporate thing, she would say, ‘You talk about your job here and there, but when people talk to you about education, about coaching, a light comes on and all of a sudden you’re a completely different person.’ She was like, ‘You need to go back to the classroom.’ Since doing so, I’ve loved every moment of it.”

Back to School

Jake Redmond holding a footballRedmond’s desire to get back to the classroom landed him a job at Cleveland High School in Portland, where he taught business. He has since moved over to the Beaverton School District, where he teaches business and an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) course – designed to prepare all students for college readiness – at Aloha High School.

Regardless of where he teaches, Redmond is energized by his charges, recognizing both the vital role he’s playing in their development while also acknowledging how they are continually enlightening him. “The most important thing is just being open and to listen, because they are coming to you with some tremendous ideas and/or new technology that we’re not currently using in the classroom,” he says. “I’m always amazed at the things they come up with. I just take a step back, and I’m just like, ‘Wow, this is exciting.’”

At the same time, he isn’t afraid to play hardball when necessary, whether he’s in class or roaming the halls. “There are times you’re walking the hallway and see things students shouldn’t be doing,” he says. “That’s when you ask the question, ‘OK, do you think that’s the right thing to do? No? Then go fix it.’”

Addressing a Need

As much as he learned from his own experiences, Redmond wanted to further his education around new strategies and helpful tools for the classroom. He enrolled in George Fox’s MAT program in 2021 to better equip him to handle the challenges of teaching and mentoring.

What he encountered was a group of peers who served as an encouragement and valuable resource, as well as instructors who, as he puts it, “opened his eyes” to new ways of doing things in class.

“The greatest thing about my experience in the MAT program was just being able to meet all my peers and hear advice from them on how to handle certain situations,” he says. “And our main instructor, Carol Brazo, just did a tremendous job in leading us. I’ve taken ideas from things she taught us in class and applied them to my own classes, especially in the area of group activities.”

Beyond that, he was jolted out of his comfort zone.

“Sometimes you get stuck in your ways, and those are the times you need to be exposed to different perspectives in order for you to grow as a professional and as a person,” he says. “One of the most important things about the George Fox program was that it allowed me to get out of my comfort zone as a teacher. In the past I’ve been somewhat stuck in my ways, but I’ve expanded my ability to see things differently.”

The Ultimate Reward

In the end, when all is said and done, Redmond finds satisfaction in the fact he is playing a role in seeing students strive to further their understanding of the world and their role in it.

“For me, it’s just rewarding to see the various projects or assignments the students come up with, especially when they go far beyond what initially was expected,” he says. “Just watching them put all that energy and passion into their assignments, for me, makes for a great day. I go home and talk to my wife about it. It brings a smile to my face, and I tell her, ‘Yeah, today was a productive day.’”

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