To Jake Spottiswood, a social studies teacher at Portage High School (PHS), nothing is more important than family.
“I was the first one out of my immediate family to go to college and it was all because of the backing and support from my family,” he said. “My mom would always tell me that I was going to college, so my parents were my biggest motivating factor at that time for sure.”
Growing up on the Illinois-Indiana state line in Lansing, IL, Spottiswood started college as a physical therapy major. While taking history and social studies courses as electives, he discovered how much he enjoyed the subject.
Spottiswood fell in love with teaching through his college observation hours and student teaching. One thing that he took away from those ventures was the importance of offering students the ability to have a positive experience in the classroom.
“I think everyone has that one teacher that really made an impact on their life and I liked the idea that maybe being me one day,” he said. “I was lucky enough to coach football for six years at Portage before my son was born and that’s one of the times I really learned how important those relationships with your students are.”
At Portage High School, Spottiswood teaches mostly senior-level courses such as Government, Economics, and a dual-credit Government course that allows students to earn college credits through Indiana University in Bloomington.
Spottiswood’s favorite part of working at Portage High for the past seven years has been the people he works with.
“We’re very fortunate to have a lot of great teachers and staff at Portage High School,” he said. “It makes a huge difference in feeling welcomed and being able to make friends at the workplace. I really miss seeing all of them!”
His teaching style is known to be open, friendly, and honest.
“Some of the classes I teach, specifically Economics and Government, are not always everyone’s favorite so I try to keep it fun and positive and make sure the kids know that I’m there to help them,” Spottiswood said.
Teaching government during a time in history like this has opened many questions from Spottiswood’s students, which makes him feel like he is succeeding as a teacher.
“I love when my students ask questions because it makes me feel like they’re really trying to understand and retain the information they’re learning,” he said.
The government shutdown has affected everything – in every way, shape, and form. Since the pandemic, Spottiswood, like many other instructors, has not been able to see his students in-person.
“Every teacher is doing the best they can, just like our students. We are all learning this on the fly.”
Daily face-to-face interaction with his students is the element Spottiswood misses the most.
“I think making that connection is extremely important so that the students can get a feel for your personality, feel that you care, and know that you are there to help them understand and succeed,” he said.
Along with teaching Social Studies, Spottiswood also enjoys football, hanging out with his wife, Katie, 18-month-old son, Eddie, and baby on the way! He is also a huge fan of the Chicago Bears, White Sox, and the Blackhawks.
“My wife and I actually walked out to the Blackhawks theme song with customized jerseys for our wedding ceremony if that tells you anything!” he said.
Now living in Highland, Spottiswood loves getting to know his community.
“My wife and I got really lucky with our house because it’s located at the end of a cul-de-sac,” he said. “All of our surrounding neighbors are great people who we’ve become friends with, it almost feels like its own little community, on top of our family being close which is always nice.”
Along with taking care and spending time with his family, Spottiswood is also working to earn his master’s online for teaching Political Science.
“It’s really important that I stay as organized as possible with everything I’ve got going on. My motivation is my family and pushing myself to be the best that I can be for them,” he said.
To help his students feel continually motivated and supported throughout the e-learning process, Spottiswood leans on reassurance.
“As cheesy as it may sound, I feel like really just letting them know that I’m there for them in whatever ways they need is the main thing,” he said.
Spottiswood understands the challenges that e-learning can present.
“I tell the kids all the time – I get that every family situation is different. I know some of you are sharing a computer screen with three or four other siblings and that this isn’t ideal for everyone. But we’re doing what we need to do to get through this time and making the most out of it,” he said.