Christopher Webb is a Jobs for Maine Graduates specialist working with students at the Lewiston Middle School. Next year, he’ll become a second lieutenant in the Maine Army National Guard, thanks, in part, to those students.
Name: Christopher Webb
What drew you into teaching? Former teachers and coaches I had in school. I graduated from Messalonskee in 2005 and my English teacher was Mr. Brown. It really helped that I had him for two years, my junior and senior year, for honors and advanced placement English. I could tell that he was really passionate about what he was teaching us and even though I may not have been interested in the material we were covering all the time, he had the ability to draw me in and make me invested in it. I envied that ability in him and that passion that drove him.
The other person was my lacrosse coach, who really believed in me right from my freshman year and gave me a lot of responsibility. Even though I didn’t feel like I was ready for it, he saw things in me that I didn’t. I wanted to have the same impact that those individuals had on me, on others. I want students to look back and say that I brought the best out in them and inspired them to do things they didn’t think they were capable of.
How long have you been involved with Jobs for Maine Graduates? This is my fourth year with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates at Lewiston Middle School. I was really attracted to the curriculum and the unique opportunity that JMG presented me to influence students. It’s not a traditional class and I like the exclusivity of it; I get a small group of students to work with all year and really get to know. It prepares students by providing them with a toolbox of skills, knowledge and best practices that they can use throughout their lives to achieve self-sufficiency, pursue their aspirations and attain success. I think it helps them achieve a sense of pride, direction and clearer sense of what they want out of life and how they are going to achieve it. (That’s right from our website!)
What sort of difference have you seen JMG make for kids? I think the biggest impact and change I’ve seen out of the students is their willingness to take risks and learn from their mistakes. We talk a lot about personal growth and how mistakes are some of the greatest opportunities that they have to learn. I see some of my students who come in to the class in their seventh grade year and I can barely get them to say two words or participate in class and by the end of the year they’re making speeches at our closing ceremony in front of all their friends and family on stage.
Last winter, your class pretty epically duct taped then-Lewiston Middle School Principal Jake Langlais to the wall as a fundraiser. What did they do this year? The students and the rest of the school really rallied around that event last year and we had a blast doing it. We haven’t done anything like that yet this year, but our plan for March is to host a staff-versus-student basketball game to tag along with all the events the school has planned during that time and the college tournament. We’re hoping to get enough participation to be able to have a seventh and eigth grade game. My student leaders and I are working to see if we can involve Bates College as well. I think it would be great to have some of their players on the student’s team.
I understand the Army National Guard gave a presentation to students a few years ago and it inspired you to join? My recruiter, Staff Sergeant Tyler Beck, was kind enough to give a presentation to my eighth graders and the JMG students at the high school during my first year teaching at the middle school. I have always thought about joining and after hearing about all the benefits offered by the guard, I stopped making excuses for myself and became more serious about joining. Tyler and I had several conversations after that and decided that my best option would be to join as an officer candidate. That is my role right now. I will begin Officer Candidate School in March and that will take 18 months of drilling on the weekends before I become a commissioned second lieutenant.
The 2017-2018 school year is already half in the books. Three things you’re looking forward to the second half of the year: I’m really looking forward to our Urban Adventure overnight field trip that happens every year in April for the eighth graders. They get to do a scavenger hunt in the Old Port of Portland and partake in three business stops where they hear from the owners or employees. We partner with Unum for that and the students stay at Unum in Portland then participate in mock job interviews the next day. We did the Stock Market Game for the first time this year as well and a number of my students did very well. One group placed second in the state for middle schools and got invited to an awards ceremony they hold and give a speech about what they learned. They will be taking part in another competitive session from mid-January until late April. I am also looking forward to the staff versus student basketball game we are hoping to host. We’ve never done it before, but I’m hoping we get lot of buy in from the community and are able to make it an event that we can celebrate and support each other.
Christopher Webb talks with Lewiston Middle School students about teamwork during an exercise with Maine National Guard units behind the school last fall. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)