James Simmons, English and special education teacher
Q: What do you teach at PHS?
A: I’m teaching ninth grade English, and I’m a special education teacher. I’m what they call a multi-categorical teacher.
Q: Where and what were you teaching before you came here?
A: I’ve been at Hamilton Middle. I was there for about 11 years, so I’ve taught for quite a while. I decided to graduate eighth grade finally, made it up to ninth grade, so I made it far.
Q: What brought you to PHS?
A: A lot of different things. My son is here, he’s a junior and it’s nice to be at the same school as your children. I’m also helping with the robotics team, they did very well last year at the state competition. So all these things kind of combined, and the opportunity presented, with lots of positions open.
Q: How long have you taught?
A: I’ve taught 21 to 22 years at this point. I’ve been teaching quite a while. I’ve taught elementary, middle, and high school.
Q: What are you excited about for this year?
A: I’ve enjoyed the change. This is not middle school and I appreciate that. You guys are at the age where certain things don’t need to be policed, and if you can’t figure the rules out, there’s a place for you to, its just not here. I don’t always get the ones that enjoy being in school, but do desperately need help. I appreciate the change, I appreciate I’m dealing with an older crowd, not the middle school crowd. It’s a much different world.
Q: How would you describe your teaching style?
A: I try to do a variety of things. I try to give the students every tool they need to be successful. We all struggle with something, I don’t care where you are academically. The students I have often need more support than others, but they are still working on getting the same diploma, and working to graduate. Life isn’t always fair after you graduate, so how you become your own best advocate. The students I work with, I do a lot of counseling, a lot of scheduling, I work with parents, I’ve done home visits. I try to make sure I give them every opportunity to be successful.
Q: What do you want students to know about you?
A: What I keep telling them, if you need help you need to come ask. There are thousands of ways to ask for help, whether it email, whether it’s messaging. Not asking is what will get you in trouble the quickest. I don’t care who you are; whether you’re old, or young, or whatever you want to call yourself, ask for help and be your own advocate.
Q: Why did you become a teacher?
A: I was one that always struggled in school to some degree, but I always worked with younger students . I kept trying to leave, I kept trying to get away from it, but I kept coming back to it, so I’m obviously meant to be here because I keep coming back to it.
Q: Do you have a quote you live by?
A: Every day you’ll hear a lot of similar thing in my room. “You can be as successful as you want to be,” “there is hope.” High school is only four short years, if you want to be more, you want to be treated better, you need to ask for it. I use all sorts of odd sayings, and mannerisms, and whatnot.
Q: Do you have hobbies outside of school?
A: I’m involved in a lot of different things, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, crew, church, I’m part of a men’s group. Helping others seems to be a general theme of mine… there is a life beyond these walls so I try not to live in school 24/7.
Q: Do you have any advice for your students?
A: We all struggle with these things, we all have to find ways to ask for help. At this age you have to be your own advocate. Opportunities will be there but if you don’t ask, you don’t inquire, you don’t seek it out, it will pass you by and someone will take it.