PREPARING KIDS FOR THE FUTURE
It’s been 19 years since Banks High School Principal Jacob Pence started his career in education, but since it’s provided him an opportunity to do something he’s always loved to do: help.
“I’ve always been kind of a helper and loved to help people,” Pence said, “And education has provided me ample opportunity to do just that.”
Growing up in Prineville, Pence knew little more than that he wanted to wrestle. He rode that passion for the sport to Clackamas Community College and from there to Pacific University, where he wrestled for the Boxers. Throughout his time spent on the mat, he — like most athletes — suffered his share of injuries. Because of that, and due to his experience rehabbing, he had targeted a career in physical therapy before the teaching world came calling.
“I loved anatomy and health, and I thought it would be a lot of fun helping people recover from injuries,” Pence said. “But then once I got to Pacific and started working with kids, I really enjoyed it and decided to explore the teaching aspect of it.”
After student-teaching at Neil Armstrong Middle School and Forest Grove High School for a year, Pence started looking for work in the area, while his wife finished her occupational therapy program at Pacific. He was ultimately hired at Banks to teach computers at the middle school, later became an assistant principal and athletic director, and five years ago was promoted to principal.
Jim Smith, who is presently the superintendent of the Fossil School District, was the assistant principal and athletic director at Banks when Pence was hired. He still speaks fondly of his time at Banks with Pence, and both then and now has admiration for the gifted educator.
“We could tell early on that Jacob was going to be a great teacher because he’s a natural leader, charismatic, organized, has an attention to detail and is super-smart,” Smith said. “As an administrator, he has the temperament, patience and listening skills that are necessary for success in that chosen career.”
Pence will tell you that Smith, along with Banks’ principal at the time, Jim Foster, were the real commodities in his early days in the district, and too that the duo were equally instrumental in sculpting him into the teacher and administrator he is today.
“Those guys gave me my first job, and I learned a lot from them about being a professional,” Pence said. “Showing up on time and working hard. I had a lot of fun with those guys.”
Throughout his time in the education sector, he’s always tried to remember that it’s about serving the public, and primarily helping kids achieve their potential. He said that while kids want different things and everyone aspires for different levels of achievement, it is educators’ job to provide kids the best opportunity to reach the goals they set for themselves.
“We obviously want to set the bar high, but in the end, we’re trying to help produce good people that will go on to be productive employees, parents, and husbands and wives,” Pence said. “Sure, the academics are a big part of that, but I like to look at the whole person. We’re trying to help them through this critical time, and because everyone is different, you have to approach them each differently as well.”
After 19 years in Banks, he’s seen his share. From coaching wrestling, to various state championships, the school’s “triple crown” in 2019 when they won state titles in football, baseball and boys basketball, and his favorite, annually watching the senior class walk the stage at graduation.
Pence said he now has ex-students with kids at the school, and who themselves have become what Pence ultimately aims for them to be: productive members of society.
“Some are doctors, lawyers and teachers, or work at a Nike or Intel,” he said. “Seeing them go on to be successful in whatever they’re doing is pretty rewarding to see, and while I certainly don’t take credit for that, just knowing you were a part of helping them go do great things is something I feel pretty good about.”
And does Pence ever think about what may have been had he continued down a different path? Not really. After all, education is what he was meant to do. He sees that now.
“It definitely feels like a calling that I never really thought of,” Pence said. “But the way it’s all kind of worked out, it’s been very rewarding work.”