One of Miami High’s Best, Mr. Jara

Mr.+Jara+with+AP+Computer+Science+Principles+student%2C12th+grader%2C+Lucy+Severo.
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One of Miami High’s Best, Mr. Jara

Mr. Jara with AP Computer Science Principles student,12th grader, Lucy Severo.

Mr. Jara with AP Computer Science Principles student,12th grader, Lucy Severo.

Mr. Jara with AP Computer Science Principles student,12th grader, Lucy Severo.

Mr. Jara with AP Computer Science Principles student,12th grader, Lucy Severo.

By Carolina Soto, Editor-in-Chief

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Whether you had him as a student or teacher, Miami High alumnus Mr. Jara, recently named Miami High’s Rookie Teacher of the Year, has four years of teaching experience, from math to science to computers, and is hoping to inspire all those around him.

 

Growing Up in Peru

A Class of ’08 graduate, Mr. Jara was born in Lima, Peru. He describes his childhood as a good one.   As a child he dreamt of being either a doctor or engineer and has always been fascinated by medicine and technological innovations. “I always wanted to follow a career in which I could care for others,” he said.

He was very clumsy growing up. “Thankfully we had a family friend who was a nurse that lived nearby. She was always treating me for scrapes and cuts,” he said.

When Mr. Jara was 13, he, his 3 older sisters and his mom were called move away to Miami to join his dad who had moved away from Peru earlier to find work in Miami.

 

Life in Miami

Adjusting to American life in Miami wasn’t hard for him. “When I first came to Miami, I knew it wasn’t going to be that difficult to adjust because of the heavy Hispanic influence that was all around me,” he said.

The main issue he had was getting used to taking classes in Spanish and English. “Since I was an ESOL student, they provided me with Spanish speaking classes to help me understand material and it wasn’t that bad since I passed my FCAT (a graduation exam like the FSA) on the first try,” he said.

As a high school student, he was a quiet one. “I did good in my classes, but I wouldn’t say I was an outstanding student,” he said. He wasn’t very involved during his time at Miami High. “At most, I did the 4 years of JROTC,” he said. He enjoyed social studies and had a love for math even though he was not the best at it. “Once I got the hang of it though, math has always been my favorite subject ever,” he said.

His experiences as a student has influenced him as a teacher. “When I was a student in elementary and middle school, I was a below average student who would always get Cs in my classes, and it’s something I’m not proud of, but when I got to high school I had a lot of teachers that were very supportive and encouraging, and that helped me bring up my grades and be self-motivated, and that is exactly what I want to do for my students,” he said.

 

Life after High School

   Throughout his life, Mr. Jara was always good at troubleshooting technology. “I always had gigs fixing computers,” he said.

Before teaching, he worked in all sorts of places: at an immigration lawyer’s office organizing and translating documents; at Best Buy’s Geek Squad doing tech support and occasionally selling computers; as a research assistant at the Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine, and at the University of Miami’s Hussman Institute for Human Genomics. In his free time, he would volunteer at the Sylvester Cancer Comprehensive Center.

While working, he also was a student at Miami Dade College, where he would rely on his professors that were good at lecturing. “I’m a visual/auditory learning, so lectures were always good enough for me to get the concepts,” he said.

To him, college at Miami Dade was easy until he got to his upper division courses when he transferred to FIU into their engineering school. “I took some really rigorous courses when I first transferred to FIU. My GPA was very low, and I lost my Bright Futures scholarship,” he said. He managed to raise his GPA, but the scholarship was gone. Nonetheless, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology. “I am proud that I didn’t give up,” he said.

Teaching was an accidental discovery. He applied to over 80 jobs in his field of Biology, yet none of them called him, and those that did wanted to pay him the same amount he would earn at Best Buy. “I then decided to pass by the school district offices and learned there was a teacher shortage so I came to Miami High to see if they needed teachers. Since I graduated from here, I felt it would be a great place to start,” he said.

He is currently doing his master’s degree in Educational Leadership online, and admits that it is challenging.

One of Mr. Jara’s Favorite Quotes

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.

Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.

Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.

Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.

Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.

But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

Buddha

 

He explains, “Although someone is going through the same thing you’re going through, you both are experiencing it in different matters, it’s about believing what you are living rather than what people are saying,” he said.

Life at Miami High

    Mr. Jara has been teaching at Miami High for four years now. He first started teaching Physical Science to 9th graders back in 2016, and then moved on to teach Probability and Statistics and Financial Algebra. He is now teaching Intro to Engineering and AP Computer Science Principles. He also is the Robotics and Technology Club (R-Tech) advisor, where students that have an interest in coding can join.

Recently winning Rookie Teacher of the Year has been very rewarding to him. “It was very reassuring and validating from all the work I have been putting in,” he said.

He has also involved himself with organizations that are trying to grow the computer science community educationally. “Being able to make use of all these opportunities and getting involved has made me feel the proudest because coming from Peru and not knowing English, yet thriving, to make a difference has meant a lot to me,” he said.

He likes teaching at Miami High. “I love what I do,” he said. The best part about being a teacher is being able to show students maybe something they have never considered. “Seeing enthusiasm in students while they are learning is one of the things that brings me the most joy,” he said.

The worst part about being a teacher is not the misbehaving students, but seeing students going through things they shouldn’t be going through at this age. “I heard so many things that have made my heart break, but that makes me want to work harder in order to provide the support those students need,” he said.

If he can give any student one piece of advice it would be to enjoy the responsibility in the moment. “There’s many people in this world that say if they can go back, they would do it all over again, and that’s regret,” he said. “You don’t want to live with regret, but you don’t want to do the wrong things either. You have to enjoy the moment while being responsible with it because you only get to go through life once, and it’s not to ruin it. It’s to make the best with it, and it doesn’t matter who we are, we all have great capacity to do great things.”

Mr. Jara with R-Tech members at the 2019 Miami VR Expo.

 

Life Outside School

In Mr. Jara’s free time he is usually just catching up on sleep. He spends most of his time either working, doing something school-related, or taking his classes online. “For example, like this year I got the big opportunity to teach a workshop to teachers,” he said.

Ever since he came to Miami 15 years ago from Peru, he never has had a proper vacation. “It’s always been a thing about either working or studying, yet I was able to go to Disney World this summer which was a nice vacation, and I would love to go back to Peru since I do have family over there,” he said.

A skill he would like to get better at is cooking so he can be able to make things for himself and for others. He listens to all types of music: classical, Spanish, metal, or Italian.

The people he admires the most are his parents. “They’ve had humble beginnings living in the countryside of Peru with no resources at all, but they have worked hard. My dad now is employed in an American company and has had many rewards from all the hard work he has put in,” he said.

   If he were to give up teaching, he would maybe step in to an administrative role either in the school or at the district level supporting teachers. However, he also has thought to get a Ph.D. in science to throw himself back into research.