For accounting and finance teacher Jerry Naylor ’75, teaching is about more than relaying textbook lessons. It is about establishing trust with his students and building relationships that will last well-beyond graduation. His position at Mount Saint Joseph began initially as a stepping stone to somewhere else, but over time evolved into a 39-year tenure of sharing his passions and shaping generations of Mount men. He joined the faculty as an accounting teacher while pursuing a second degree in accounting, with all intentions of launching that as his career.
“Later on, the profession didn’t seem to be as interesting as the teaching,” he explains. “You get attached to the kids, the lifestyle, the families, and the relationships that are forged. There are always new challenges. Every year there are new classes to be taught. Every year there are new faces in front of you, and there are new challenges in the personalities and the characters, in trying to reach the kids. If there are 20 people in your classroom, you have 20 goals.”
Another important factor in Mr. Naylor’s decision to continue teaching is the constant feedback he receives from his students. “At the end of every year, I put a question out there: Should Mr. Naylor retire?” he says, shuffling through papers at his desk. He pulls out a stack of notebook paper and reads aloud replies from students – a string of “No,” “No way,” and “Definitely not.” One student wrote, “No one cares more than you, Mr. Naylor. I am a better student from being around you.” Another expressed, “You are easily one of the best teachers on campus, simply because you are as much a teacher as you are a student and friend.” There were mentions of his unique teaching style, how he makes learning fun, and how he pushes his students to do their best. But, for Mr. Naylor, the most rewarding responses are the mentions of the great relationships he has with his students.
A testament to the strength of the relationships he cultivates is how long-lasting they are. Mr. Naylor says one of the most vital aspects of those enduring personal relationships is trust. “Kids continually come back,” he says. “There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t have faces at my door, wanting to be seen, wanting positive reinforcement, and wanting just to joke around and have a good time. You also get a chance to hear troubles and problems. The trust is something that is just absolutely immeasurable in terms of its effect on you. You have this incredible responsibility to be honest and genuine and sincere with a student, and you never want to betray that. You don’t always have the answer, but you always want to listen and try to give advice that you feel is in their best interest.”
Over the years, Mr. Naylor has worn many hats. In addition to teaching, he has managed alumni relations, organized events, and coached a number of sports and activities. His involvement outside of the classroom has given him even more opportunities to connect with former and current students, and as a Mount graduate himself, his own classmates as well. He is constantly running into Mount connections. When he does, he says he feels “the mammoth responsibility of being a teacher, always wanting to leave them with something that will last, with a good feeling about themselves, an affirmative statement.” He continues, “I always want to leave them proud to be a part of The Mount. I want to leave them with the feeling that we share something – that we didn’t just graduate from high school, but that we graduated from Mount Saint Joseph.”
One way Mr. Naylor preserves this relationship between his former students and The Mount is by inviting alumni back on campus to speak in his classes. He says that at every function he attends he is cognizant of how he can ask alumni to get involved. “I never have problems getting people to come back and stick their nose in the classroom,” he says. “There are a lot of people at Saint Joe who have had good experiences and want to give back.” He has had successful real estate professionals, builders, mortgage bankers, stock brokers, and financial advisers return to speak in his classes, but he is most proud of his former students’ accomplishments as husbands, fathers, and positive contributors to the community because he knows that it is the relationships we form with others that are most important.