By Anna Owsley
New communications teacher excited to coach engaged debate students
Sohail Jouya encouraged by the school's community of support
JagWire: What are you most excited for about your new job?
Sohail Jouya: A lot of my passion is in competitive academics, and we have a very young program here that is incredibly eager. That sounds like a good amount of fun for me. I’ve rebuilt a number of programs, but I think this one – by far – has the most potential in terms of the amount of students who are really engaged and really want to learn and be more competitive.
JW: What are you looking forward to about being at Mill Valley?
SJ: There’s obviously a very strong culture and community support here, and I am very impressed by it. The amount of parent engagement is something I haven’t quite seen to this degree, and I think that speaks to the amount of pride that’s here at this school. And the amount of interest in which parents are intimately involved with their kids’ education … I find that very telling about the kind of students that are here. If there are things people feel like aren’t available to them, they make it happen, and I find that very encouraging.
JW: What led you to a career in teaching and your specific subject area?
SJ: I was not an education major; I never thought I would ever be a teacher. I dropped out of law school and I came back to the Kansas City area. It all started because my mother was very angry about an old bunch of high school [debate] trophies I had laying around, and she [told me] “you have to get rid of these.” There’s an Urban Debate League in Kansas City, and one of the things they do is [fund debate programs for] students who are in districts that typically can’t fund debate on their own and [they] apparently repurpose trophies. I emailed them because I had a bunch to give them and they were like ‘can you come down on Tuesday? We have a tournament, and we desperately need judges.’ I judged, and [the debaters] were awful. It was very clear they had no instruction at all, so I volunteered my time. In about two weeks, I ended up taking over the [Lincoln College Preparatory Academy debate] program in that area, and it changed my life forever. I really felt like I found my calling, so I skipped out on making any more plans to attend a different law school. I got into teaching, got my certification and found myself in the building full time.
JW: Give us a fun fact about yourself to help us get to know.
SJ: I have this weird, secret ambition to be a comedian; I always thought it would be hilarious if I had the glut of additional money and free time. I would love to see the time out of my life in which I actually took [being a comedian] seriously – which I don’t think I could do – but I think it would be really fun. It sounds somewhat arrogant, but I do think I’m quite funny, [so] I would want to do that with my life. If I find another 20 years to kill, I’ll try it. It would not go well. I would probably sleep on a lot of couches and not do much. It’s also one of the professions that pays less than teaching, so of course I would want to pursue that.