John Fitzgerald

John Fitzgerald

2022 Amazing Educators - Wilsonville

Hometown: Wilsonville
Why he is an Amazing Educator:
Fitzgerald roots for this student's success and always has a helping hand.

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A TEACHER STUDENTS REMEMBER

On any typical day at Wilsonville High School, John Fitzgerald can be found in his classroom or chatting with a student in the hallway. And if he’s not there, check the auditorium or broadcasting booth.

Fitzgerald has worked in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District for about twelve years. But teaching was a second career path for Fitzgerald. After studying English and theater at the University of Portland for his undergraduate degree, he worked in the health care sector for a while before pursuing his master’s degree in education at Portland State University.

“I’ve always been motivated by things where you help other people and sort of contribute to society in a way. In my job before this, I felt like I was helping people — but it was abstract, and I couldn’t see (my contribution) directly. But now I can, which is cool,” he said.

At Wilsonville High, Fitzgerald keeps himself busy. Day-to-day, he teaches several types of English classes, leads the journalism program and broadcasting station, and also serves as director of the theater program.
While teaching his various courses, Fitzgerald is comfortable taking a step back to let his student’s creativity flourish independently.

“There are a lot of really cool kids here and I get to see how they interact with the world, what they’re interested in, where their lives are going — so all of that is a treat and just great,” he said.

In his writing courses, students are encouraged to explore their interests and tell their stories through different mediums. While leading the high school’s newspaper and broadcast station, Fitzgerald allows his students to experiment with their own voice in print, radio, and video —with the one guideline that they don’t exclude anyone else’s voice in their reporting.

“The big thing is we want to make sure that we’re telling good stories about what’s going on at school but we want to make sure we include everybody.”

Outside of his curriculum, Fitzgerald strives to make sure every student feels like there is someone on their side, and that they have every opportunity to succeed. Through a series of approaches, he figures out where his students are at, what their learning preferences are and then helps them succeed from that vantage point.

“I think sometimes schools are like: ‘OK, let’s bring some kids in and see how they’re gonna fail’,” he said. “I try not to have that assumption and that sometimes means trying to figure out what kind of learner a student is and getting to really know the person that I am teaching.”

Beyond the academic year and during the summer months, Fitzgerald volunteers his time helping students who need additional support and are working towards credit recovery. He said that when he was in school and struggled, it was usually because of conflicts happening beyond the classroom. This motivates him to aid students that may just need a different environment, learning style.

“I like to think that I metaphorically hang on tight to people down to the last second, and that there’s an opportunity for somebody to do well and be successful — in whatever way that looks to them. I think the kids know that I’m super excited about the job and to be here with them. And they know that I am rooting for them wherever they are,” he said.

Wilsonville High School Principal Kelly Schmidt nominated Fitzgerald because he inspired his students to become critical thinkers and develop a love of learning.

“Mr. Fitzgerald is the type of teacher that students remember,” she said.