John Rowell ’11 has wasted no time pursuing his dream of teaching mathematics. He tutored his peers while still a student at Saint Ignatius only six short years ago. In the fall of 2015, with the ink barely dry on his diploma from St. Louis University, Rowell has returned to his Alma Mater to take a position in the math department, alongside many of the esteemed teachers he now calls colleagues.
“Tutoring gave me the feeling that I wanted to teach, after having the great experiences I had as a student,” says Rowell. His teachers -- including David Sabol ’99, Cindy Reagan, and Jon Barker ’87 – ignited within him a passion for the subject. “They really propelled me into a teaching career,” he says.
Rowell tutored during his senior year in Dan Crew ’99‘s math classes. Crew never had him as a student, but the two knew each other through the soccer team, for which Rowell was manager and Crew assistant coach.
“He had 9th period off, the last period of the day, and began making appearances in my room. I encouraged him to get more involved, and the rest is history,” says Crew. Rowell’s ability to relate to his peers helped them succeed. “He had no trouble sitting alongside his peers and mentoring them in the conquest to be better students. The students had no fear of approaching him because he was one of their own,” Crew says.
Helping others comes naturally to Rowell, and he has made it a focus in his life. He participated in a program as a student at St. Louis University which included service as a major component. Saint Ignatius’ emphasis on serving others is another reason Rowell chose to return here to teach.
“I wanted to teach at Ignatius because of the Jesuit mission of being a man for and with others,” Rowell says.
Even though he’s comfortable on campus, being a first year teacher can have its share of challenges. Rowell appreciates the formation program in place at Saint Ignatius, in which all new faculty and staff members learn about the school’s mission by participating in meetings and retreats.
Veteran teachers and staff have been welcoming and helpful to Rowell.
“I’m blown away at how much support I have here,” he says.
Outside the classroom, Rowell is getting to know some students as an assistant coach for the JV-B soccer team. It’s clear that his youth helps him relate to his students. On a recent autumn morning on the second floor math wing, Rowell’s ninth grade Algebra I students were working together to solve story problems. For every problem solved, Rowell rewarded them with an “anti-joke” (the definition of which is probably a mystery to anyone over 25).
“What did the farmer say when he lost his tractor?” he says.
There’s a short pause.
“Where’s my tractor?”
The students groan happily, eager to tackle the next problem.