A relatively rare male kindergarten teacher, Jacob Desjardins wants to be a role model for boys and girls
In the 1990 comedy Kindergarten Cop, Arnold Schwarzenegger played a detective who goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher only to discover a calling for the classroom. In the real world, where more than nine of every 10 kindergarten teachers in America are women, Canton, Massachusetts, native Jacob Desjardins BA ’23 chose teaching “because it has allowed me to defy the odds and become a strong male figure for many young boys and girls to see.”
Jacob, whose father is a project manager and mother works in the finance department of their town, notes that “All of my elementary school teachers were female (and were all amazing).” He spent his junior year in the kindergarten classroom of Carina Keenan, a veteran teacher at Memorial School in Medfield, Massachusetts.
“In the different settings I have taught in, I have been one of many female teachers with a very small presence, if any, of male counterparts,” Keenan wrote. “It has been particularly rewarding for me to see some of the students form special relationships with Jacob. This has been evident through the students' excitement to work with Jacob, their eagerness to connect with him, and through direct feedback received from parents.”
Keenan recalls Jacob’s participation in a “mini intervention unit” with a group of students. “The students had a smile on their face, and were excited to work with Jacob during their intervention time in the classroom. The students' time with Jacob has greatly benefited their academic progress, as well as their overall academic confidence. Jacob's devotion, flexibility, and motivation to help students is evident in each and every interaction he has with myself, colleagues, and most importantly, the students.”
This was all while Jacob was fulfilling his pre-practicum and observational requirement. If Jacob hoped to be a role model for his students, it could be for his work ethic as well as his gender. Taking as many as six classes per semester, he will have basically obtained his bachelor’s degree in three years so that, in addition to student teaching at Memorial next semester, he will be completing courses toward a master’s degree.
But wait—there’s more! The signature for Jacob’s email reads like a mash-up of several students’ titles: Resident Assistant, Pride Guide Coordinator, Orientation Leader Coordinator, President of Kappa Delta Pi, and Co-Vice President of the Among Us Club. This last organization, which aims “to make Regis a more tight-knit community by hosting game nights during which anyone on campus who wishes to join can play [the online game] Among Us,” was the brainchild of Lilla Torontali ’24. As her mentor in the Partners in Excellence (PIE) program, which offers support to first-year first-generation students from students who have demonstrated success at Regis, graduate students, faculty and staff, Jacob encouraged Lilla to pursue a leadership path on campus.
“He helped me not only get used to what college entailed, even while I was fully remote, but he also encouraged me to seek out student leadership positions and helped me integrate into the Regis community more,” Lilla recalls. “In fact, the reason I applied to be an Orientation Leader, and then an OL coordinator was because he encouraged me to do so. Were it not for his help and encouragement, I wouldn't be nearly as involved and comfortable as I currently am on campus.”
Though not a first-gen student himself, Jacob has found mentoring students like Lilla through the PIE program personally rewarding. “This program has taught me to not take anything for granted,” he explains, “and that mentoring others is something that I love to do for students at any age.”
Lilla needed to integrate herself into a campus community in a pandemic year when classes were classes were all remote, without the benefit of family she could turn to for advice about college life. As her first mentor, Jacob offered Lilla a lifeline.
“He was super easy to talk to regarding whatever I needed help with, and he was always available to help me, no matter what my questions were,” she recalls. “He radiated energy, even through the Zoom screen. It was nice to meet someone genuinely excited to help others and who was a reliable resource.”
Jacob’s own introduction to Regis began with the recommendation of a friend who was a nursing student. “She said the school had a great education program [and] I fell in love with the small campus size, the welcoming and all-inclusive community, and the small class sizes.” He attributes his choice to the academic coaches and advisors, tutoring availability and other support services.
Today, he is president of the Regis chapter of Kappa Delta Pi the Education National Honor Society, a recipient of a Regis Diverse Educators Scholarship, and coordinator of his church service program’s summer camp. He also volunteered to feed the homeless and rebuild houses for those less fortunate in Kentucky, Texas, Puerto Rico and Pennsylvania.
For all his energy and commitment, it’s hard not to wonder if the prospect of adding student teaching next year to an ambitious academic course load and all of his leadership responsibilities is intimidating.
“I definitely am not daunted or scared one bit to put a lot on my plate,” Jacob responds. “I love to constantly challenge myself and push myself out of my comfort zone to get the most out of each and every experience that I can. This 3+1 experience was definitely not just for the economic reasons, but to try and push myself and try something that has never been done before! I am someone who always likes to keep doing more.”
How might that drive translate once he completes his bachelors and master’s program? Jacob envisions a doctoral degree and, one day, a career as a school principal or superintendent. Whatever role he assumes, he will give his all to the students he teaches in the classroom and those who share his ambition to pursue education as a profession.
Lilla Torontali has this advice for Jacob’s future mentees: “I'd tell them they are in the most helpful and capable hands possible. I'd tell them they are very lucky to have him as a mentor, as there's no doubt he'll be able to help them not only succeed but thrive.”