Teachers that coach: supporting students in and out of the classroom


Photo by Jack Holme '17

The girl’s hockey team preparing for a game. The coach, Christopher Booth, has a passion for teaching and finds coaching to be especially rewarding.

Lauren Thom '18, Supervising Photo Editor

Finding the time to coach a sport on top of an already daunting seven hour school day may seem like an impossible task, yet several teachers at South tackle this challenge head on.

World History and U.S. History teacher Christopher Booth has taught at South for seven years and began coaching girls hockey four years ago, he said. This is his first year as head coach of the girls hockey program. With 36 players, Booth has three assistant coaches to help him.

The previous head coach decided last year he would be leaving the program, and Booth said him taking over was something they had talked about at the beginning of last season.

“I knew it was going to happen. He had coached for six years, so he decided that he wanted to move on to something else, so it was really kind of the whole year last year that we knew I was going to take over,” Booth said.

Booth said he’s been playing sports his whole life and didn’t know he wanted to become a teacher until late in college. He said positive coaches and excellent teachers influence people’s lives and he believed they would both be great professions for him.

“Coaching and teaching is something bigger than yourself. A lot of my friends are lawyers, or they run businesses and that kind of stuff, but he satisfaction I get from it is, it’s not really about me,” Booth said. “When you’re coaching and you’re teaching, it’s about the team, it’s about the student, and that’s what you’re trying to teach the kids, and teach your players.”

Booth said he wants to teach his players that being there for the team is more important than winning, and he wants them to feel that being involved in a sport is something bigger than themselves.

“It’s like a lesson for life; you’re supposed to care about your teammates, and you’re supposed to care about the kids in your class,” Booth said. “To me, that’s why I do it, and I love hockey. You want your girls to become better people, and better hockey players.”

Having played hockey from a young age, Booth said he always wanted to coach. He stopped playing junior hockey in high school but said he misses being out on the ice.

“The thing that I miss most is not winning state championships, and going to nationals, and being drafted and that kind of stuff, but I miss being around my friends, and you miss the locker room and that type of stuff,” Booth said.

Coaching isn’t always easy according to Booth, but it’s a lot of fun and that is why he continues to coach as well as teach, he said.

Girls Varsity hockey captain Lauren Kramer ’18 had Booth as a teacher for World History her freshman year and said that because he was also her hockey coach for three years now, she sees him frequently.

“My relationship with him is different than with other teachers because I see him so much now and we always have something to talk about, which most of the time is just hockey,” Kramer said. “I know he is always there to help anyone with anything and now I can mess around with him at practice and come into his classroom to bug him.”

Booth said most of his students who also have him as a coach see him as a laid back teacher because of the connections that have developed from hockey. He said a challenge with this can be gaining respect from the students, whether he be teaching or coaching.

“I think at the end of the day you want to have respect on all sides, and you want to know that your players care about you, and that the players know that you care about them too,” Booth said.

AP Government and U.S. History teacher Dennis Pascoe began teaching at South six years ago, he said. He has been coaching football for 15 years, 12 of which were at South, and has coached track, specifically Varsity boys throwers and shot put, for four years.  This year Pascoe coaches track and JV football.

Pascoe said he believes that coaching helps to make better relationships with the students.

“I can see them in a different perspective, and I love the game and I love coaching football, just because I’ve always done it, and it’s kind of what got me into education,” Pascoe said. “It’s fun being able to do something different that just the classroom stuff.”

He said he decided to coach track on the side as something fun and as a way to continue relationships with his football players.

Pascoe said he first began coaching when he was 16 for a little league baseball team, and began at South when he was right out of college from ages 20 to 25. He then returned to coaching when he began teaching at South, at the age of 31 to the present.

In the classroom, Kal Nardone ’18 has had Pascoe for government, economics, and U.S. History. In addition, Nardone said Pascoe is his coach for football and discus.

“I’ve been throwing discus since I was a freshman and I started football this year. He wasn’t directly my coach but he was helping me on the side,” Nardone said. “He said that I should do (football) and that I’d enjoy it, which I did. It was a good suggestion. He has directly been coaching me for discus since freshman year.”

Nardone said South’s small group of throwers always has a good time with Pascoe because of his positive outlook on life.

“For discus, Coach Pascoe is always there and is goofy sometimes, and silly, but it’s really effective with students,” Nardone said. “He’s living life happily and it helps all of us do better as throwers.”

The strong connections Pascoe has with certain students that sprouted from their time together on the field has helped those of them that might struggle in the classroom, he said. He said it can help if they understand where he is coming from and that he wants them to do better.

“You’re not just being a teacher, who is like ‘Oh you need to get a better grade,’ you want them to succeed, and I think they understand that you want them to succeed in life, not just because it’s a grade,” Pascoe said.

Pascoe said he loves coaching as well as teaching because he gets a better idea of who the kids are as people, not just as students.

“It’s just been a part of my life, and I can’t dream of doing anything else besides teaching and coaching, because I think that they each help to build relationships with students, and that makes my job a lot more fun.”

Nardone said his relationship with Pascoe in the classroom is different than with his other teachers because of how much time they’ve spent together involved in non-academic activities.

“I talk a lot in Mr. Pascoe’s class because I am very comfortable with him, knowing him for a very long time,” Nardone said. “I do a lot of talking in all his classes and I enjoy it. It’s very easy for me to talk and not make me feel like I’m making the teacher mad.”

Strength training and U.S History teacher Chad Hepner ’93 also one of Nardone’s coaches for football. He is the Varsity Defensive Coordinator this year and Nardone said he helped him get situated with the sport.

“Coach Hepner has helped me believe that I can actually do things in football and that I can become a better player and athlete,” Nardone said.

Nardone said he had Hepner last year for weight and training, and has him this semester for gym class and for strength training next semester. He is overall more talkative towards him than his other teachers, he said.

“I visit him everyday before or after second hour to say ‘hi’ and make sure he’s doing okay, just generally checking in, being a nice guy,” Nardone said. “I know it bothers him a little bit because I’m always there, so that’s always fun to do.”

In regards to Pascoe and Hepner, Nardone said they both go the distance to help kids, whether it be academic or sports related.

“They are both really great people, teachers and great coaches with everything they do,” Nardone said. “They want what’s best for you in the classroom and when you’re doing a sport too.”