Adam Ross – His Decision to Become a Teacher
In search of a career in which he could make a difference in individuals’ lives at an early age – effectively intervening to prevent those at-risk from ending up in the prison system – Adam Ross came to Marylhurst to study early education
Adam Ross has spent most of his life in the Reynolds School District in one way or another. He attended from kindergarten through his high school graduation in 2003, and shortly thereafter, he coached part-time for three years. His experience as a coach planted the seed for becoming a teacher. He completed a year of student teaching at Woodland Elementary, and — just two months after graduating with his M.A. in Teaching from Marylhurst University — Adam was hired to teach a second-grade class at Hartley Elementary.
Marylhurst experience – M.A. in Teaching program
He’s already thinking back to his days at Marylhurst University fondly. One of the things he’ll miss the most is the moral and emotional support from his fellow M.A. in Teaching students. “To have them there was great, to bounce ideas off of,” Adam says. “We all come from different experiences and backgrounds.” The sum is more than its parts, he reflected. “We can combine our ideas and meld them into something better.”
Adam earned his bachelor’s degree in human services at the University of Phoenix Tigard/Tualatin campus. It was the focus on social justice that drew him to Marylhurst’s graduate program for teachers, he said. “I expected to be challenged, and I was.”
Expanded horizons: Justice and equity
Yet, as challenging as the Marylhurst curriculum was, Adam wasn’t satisfied to stop there. He embraced numerous learning opportunities, such as signing up for a workshop on restorative justice offered at Lewis & Clark College, recommended by one of his Marylhurst professors. He also participated in the Equity Summit, hosted by another Marylhurst professor, Dr. Centae Richards, now the Equity and Compliance Director at Reynolds School District.
The Equity Summit examines how young students from impoverished or minority cultural homes hold unique perceptions, and how it affects their performance in school.
“We all have biases based on our life experiences,” Adam explains. “It can be damaging not only in our own perceptions but in how we receive others – and how others feel they are being received.”
Reynolds School District has a significant population of children from minority, low-income families. All of the schools in the district are classified as Title 1-A, according to the State of Oregon’s website, meaning they have high percentages of poor children. Most receive federal funding to help ensure that all children meet the state’s academic standards.
Many of these children are refugees from other countries, says Adam. “It is almost impossible for them to be successful,” he says. “They face so many obstacles: language, culture, and post-traumatic stress from living in a war zone and in refugee camps.” With all they are facing on a daily basis, “school is the last thing on their minds. Going to college isn’t even going to be on their radar unless a teacher tells them that that’s an option,” he says.
Adam hopes he can reach them while they are young and “still have dreams that they haven’t crossed off yet.”
Early intervention = reduced crime rate
If educators would serve as early intervention in the lives of these at-risk youth, the crime rate would go down, Adam firmly believes.
He was raised in a family in law enforcement. His father served as a police officer for 30 years, and to this day, he is proud of his contributions and public service. As a teen, Adam enjoyed volunteering with the K-9 unit.
This family history led to Adam’s first career as a corrections officer. Once in the job, Adam realized it was not the right fit. Being in corrections was about maintaining control, not about reaching out to others. He felt compassion for the incarcerated. Many of the inmates were very intelligent, and in their own words, they articulated, “I didn’t grow up like you did.” The realization that it could happen to anyone became crystal clear the day one of Adam’s childhood friends walked through the prison doors.
“It was sort of an awakening for me when I saw him on the other side of the glass,” he said. “The life that you live makes a difference in the person that you become.”
Making intentional connections
Maybe, Adam thinks, for these young at-risk kids, making a difference that first year is just getting them to a point where they don’t hate school. The following year, perhaps school becomes a more fruitful experience.
“It’s like planting a garden, not just a seed, and the thought of that is exciting,” he says.
As the father of two children — a 12-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son — he knows something about nurturing youth. Being a single dad while getting his degree wasn’t easy, Adam admits. “I made sure the time I had with my kids had a purpose,” he says. “Even if we were just snuggling on the couch, or taking a hike, we were forced to connect.”
Adam brings intentionality to interactions with his son and daughter — learning, affection, connection — and with the youth he has worked with through his coaching and volunteering, making sure not a moment is wasted.
“I know how impactful a little bit of quality time can be,” he says. “As a teacher, I know that recognizing and supporting an individual, for a little bit, every day, will pay huge dividends in the long term.”
Small actions with wide-reaching impact
“If things are going to change for society as a whole, then things have to change at a base level,” Adam believes. Educating our young people, he says, needs to be about more than standardized curriculum.
“What I realized is that if we’re going to turn things around in our society, it’s not going to be because we’re punishing people,” he says. “It’s going to be because we’re meeting people where they are and helping them become successful in life.”
Adam’s commitment to helping young people stems in part from his own experience. “I have been fortunate to have a sense of my place among everyone else, and not just a world around me. That’s why going into this teaching career is so important.
“This is clearly what I am meant to do.”
// Learn more about the M.A. in Teaching program at Marylhurst University
Not a Marylhurst student? Let’s get you started.