PITTSBURG — Jay O’Ferrell is no stranger to hectic situations.
A former sergeant in the Army National Guard, Jay has 14 years of experience in uniform including a deployment to Iraq.
This is an experience he said prepared him for fatherhood and the career that he loves — an educator.
Jay and his wife Christina have four children. Along with fatherhood Jay is a former second grade teacher who just finished his first year of teaching sixth grade. However, the choice to leave the military for teaching was not an easy one.
“Choosing between the military and teaching was a real battle,” Jay said. “In the end I decided I wanted to be really good at one thing, instead of mediocre at two.”
The family also supports foster children as they go through their journey. Approximately 18 foster children have came through their home — in fact, two of the couple’s children were adopted into the family through the foster system.
The military is an ongoing theme throughout Jay’s life, he credits his time in the service for his ability to handle the ever-changing world of fatherhood and education.
“The military teaches you attention to detail, organization, structure and the Army values,” he said. “Transferring those to teaching kids was really seamless for me.”
Jay’s years as a second grade teacher were a real joy for him and taught him a lot, which he took with him to the middle school, he said.
“I absolutely love those second grade kids. I have a lot of energy, and they would match it,” he said. “I kept the kids going all the time.
“When they would tell me at the end of the day, ‘that was an awesome day’, it makes it all worth it.”
Moving from second grade to sixth has been a new experience for Jay. As the earth science teacher at the Pittsburg Middle School Jay said he knew he needed to make changes to keep the kids excited.
“Earth science can be very difficult for kids to get enthusiastic about it,” Jay said “We had to think outside of the box to keep the kids involved, so we went for very hands on work as much as possible.”
When his class was studying the earth’s layers, he would bring in actual dirt to work with to keep the kids excited about learning.
“It’s a different challenge, but I love it,” he said. “That’s the thing with me. Anywhere I go I fall in love with the job.”
Although different from young children, Jay said there are some real positives to working with older students.
“The sixth graders do get my jokes a little better than the second graders,” he said.
He feels that it’s important for all the children he teaches, no matter the grade, to feel like school is important to them.
“I like when my students feel like they came to school for a reason, and they had a purpose that day,” he said. “I want them to enjoy that purpose.”
Jay carries those lessons home with his own children, although he is quick to credit his wife for the family’s, and his personal successes. His wife also works with children at Greenbush.
“My wife is the reason I succeed, she is the captain of this ship, the glue that binds us, and the love that fills our home,” he said. “Everything I am able to do is because of her.”
Jay has lived in Pittsburg since he was young child, and has raised all his children there. Including his son Homer, who is considering following in his father’s military footsteps. A move that pleases Jay, whose father and grandfather served in the military.
“My own father is a great man,” Jay said. “He instilled in me the work ethic, and the love of children that made me who I am today.”
Years of experience in the military, as a father and teacher have given Jay a unique outlook on parenting in the modern world.
“New parents, or people considering having kids, need to remember that parenting isn’t about perfection,” he said. “We live in this facebook world, but really that’s just the happy highlights.” “Parenting is tough. I feel like I’m wrong more than I’m right with my kids, but that really is okay. “Life is a learning experience, and it is okay to fail sometimes.”
When asked about his advice for future generations he laughed and said, “Just own it. Own your life. Own everything you do, good and bad. It’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to not get it right. Own your actions, and it will go a long way in your life.”