19 Aug 2021

A Father’s Group For Teaching a New Generation

As a loving husband, caring father to two children, devoted family man, community person, and favored local middle school teacher, you might say that Jesus is the epitome of a model citizen. And you would be correct.

Three years ago, in an effort to learn more about fatherhood and to share experiences with others in the community, Jesus, a Math Teacher at St. Paul Lutheran School, McAllen, Texas, established a local fathers’ group which meets regularly to discuss certain issues and topics, and offers advice and support — something, he says, helps him to empathize more, in and out of the classroom.

The idea was born out of a desire to be involved with and share the responsibility of raising their two children together, and of being the best father possible to them that he could be. At the time, there were very few local options available for Jesus to ask or get information from, so he decided to set up his own group.

Jesus T. Peña is a Math Teacher at St. Paul
Lutheran School in McAllen, Texas.

As someone who has witnessed friends and family members around him go through family break-ups, he saw the impact it had on the children and adults involved, and wanted to avoid a similar situation happening to him. The group is about learning from each other and offering advice to other members on anything from relationships through to fatherhood, whilst having fun and trying new things, he tells me. The benefits are not only for fathers, but for the whole family and especially the children, who can enjoy the activities and are at the forefront of the group’s objectives.   

The group offers the chance to take part in events and activity days, either with just the fathers or with the children — depending on the event. Activities such as trips to Home Depot to learn building skills, and Chick-Fil-A to learn crafts are some of the previous outings before the pandemic took over.

Assessing a future generation
This genuine interest in understanding different people and generations, and building strong relationships with the learners and their parents is key to Jesus’ popularity amongst his students. From being told that he is like a father figure to a child from a single-parent family, to being invited for a burger by three of his ex-pupils — now 20-years-old, it seems he has indeed made many lasting impressions.

Jesus started RGV Dads in Texas as a fathering support group.

He reveals that his current read is a book titled “Generation Z” by Tim Elmore, which has given him a much deeper insight into his students and their thought processes, as well as his own children.

This has resulted in Jesus being able to create different methods of informal assessment for his pupils in engaging and fun ways, because of his new appreciation for them, and this is just one of the ways in which technology is helping to deliver lessons.

One of the ideas that is currently being used in the classroom is a short online test of 10 questions with a selection of multiple choice and free-response answers, which Jesus compiles using Microsoft Forms. After a certain topic has been taught, the students are asked to fill out the test to indicate the level of comprehension and which students are unclear on which areas. “They [students] love it because it’s instant gratification for them, because it [Microsoft Forms] grades it and they can see which ones they’ve missed”, he says.

Caring in the community
Jesus first discovered his talent for teaching during his student days in the math tutoring lab while studying engineering. His peers would often comment on his ability to explain something in a way that could be easily understood by others, and was later reinforced through an unusual situation he found himself in.

Jesus’ private tutoring setup includes the OKIOCAM S model.

He tells me, “at that time, being in the lab wasn’t that gratifying, but what I did find gratifying was helping others.” He continues to share a story with me of when he was in his early twenties and was sitting across from a woman, twice his age, who was crying. The woman explained that she was taking a psychology course and was dealing with statistics, but was never that good at math and needed help. Jesus was able to help her, and through his empathy and understanding of the situation, and his already acquired knowledge of math due to his engineering, came the realisation that he could actually enjoy being a teacher.

His quest to transition from engineering to math resulted in a B.S. in Mathematics and a M.Ed. in Education Administration before landing his first job as a math teacher.

Nowadays, the middle school teacher’s legacy remains the same — to help and care for others, and to try to understand people and their situation as best as possible.

Homeschooling with OKIOCAM
“I’m trying to do a formal assessment using Microsoft Forms too, and all of this happened because of the pandemic. It’s definitely something I will use moving forward”, he adds.

And it isn’t just the popular online platforms of the big tech giants that are being favoured.

Jesus uses the OKIOCAM to demonstrate math equations to his students.

Jesus first became aware of OKIOCAM while searching for document cameras on Amazon. He recalls that during the first few months of the pandemic, and in anticipation of a lockdown or school closure, the teachers at his school were sending all materials and transportable equipment home. The bulky document cameras that the school was using were too heavy, lacked portability, and were very expensive to replace, so Jesus decided to purchase one for home use.

This made sense because of the private tutoring classes that Jesus gave online and was perfect for what he needed. Up until the time of owning an OKIOCAM, he had to make do with holding his worksheets up to the camera fixed to his computer — much to the dislike of his students who moaned of low resolution blurry images.

”Getting the OKIOCAM has been a game-changer for me and my lessons”, Jesus says, “math can be confusing and it often helps to draw diagrams to explain things easier, OKIOCAM is perfect for that!”

If you would like to connect with Jesus, you can follow him on Twitter at @penamath. Check out his RGV Dads blog here.