Jason Getz, like many educators, learned through coaching that he wanted to teach. Priory’s new science teacher tried a career in pharmaceuticals before finding his true passion. After earning his undergraduate degree, a BS in biology with a chemistry minor, he went to work for Wyeth making drug products. “I made legal drugs,” he clarified with a laugh. He made a product that helps people with hemophilia, a blood clotting disease. After about 18 months, the market became saturated and his company countered the downward cycle with layoffs. Jason was newly married when he received notice that he had three months to find a new job. He and his bride moved to Connecticut, where he began work at Amgen, another large pharma company in Rhode Island. Emily went to graduate school at UConn while Jason made Enbrel, a popular drug for arthritis and psoriasis. He needed more of a challenge, and a schedule less driven by shift work. “Embrel is made from living cells, so the plant operates 24/7 and we worked on a rotating schedule. Night shifts are rough, and that’s not a schedule I wanted when we started having children,” he said. He had been coaching lacrosse as a volunteer, and found fulfillment in working with kids. He transitioned into an internship with Pomfret School, a co-ed boarding school right down the street from his home. Jason was taking a risk by moving to a much smaller salary in search of a job with meaning. He and Emily sold their house and moved into faculty housing at the school, where he taught and filled dorm duty assignments for a year. The risk paid off; Jason found he loves teaching. When his internship ended, he and Emily moved to Woodberry Forest, an all-boys boarding school in Woodberry Forest, Virginia, which is about 45 miles north of Charlottesville along the Blue Ridge Mountains. “It was a gorgeous spot, and an interesting journey to get there,” he laughed.
Jason and Emily’s family had grown to five. Daughter Sierra, now eight, was born in Connecticut. “She’s our Yankee,” he said. Kaia and Aurora, six and three, were born in Charlottesville, so Jason calls them his “southern belles.” He shared an incredible story about the birth of Kaia. “With our first child, my wife was in labor for 33 hours. Her water broke and nothing happened and we waited around while they tried Pitocin and everything else. So when Kaia was coming and Emily felt the early signs of labor, she felt like she had all the time in the world. I kept pushing, but she wanted to wait. We had to go an hour away to get to the hospital. We got within 10 minutes of the hospital when she let me know that the baby was on her way. I broke a couple of traffic laws to get off the road. I pulled into the parking lot of an IHOP, climbed into the backseat, and delivered Kaia. Then we continued to the hospital where we finished things up. Fortunately, she was our second child, so I had seen everything before and so there wasn’t much freaking out.” He paused, then continued. “Every year we go to IHOP on her birthday.”
Eventually, Jason and Emily looked at their growing family and their surroundings, and decided to come home to St. Louis. “My first three kids were girls and I was working at an all-boys school in the middle of nowhere. Options for girls weren’t so great, and being a native St. Louisan, I wanted to come back.”
He found a position teaching chemistry and biology at Whitfield, so he and Emily moved home. Son Keegan was born about six months ago, and he’s already trying to crawl after his big sisters. The family also includes two dogs (lab mix Molly and shepherd mix Dakota) and two cats (Thomas and Sophie).
Jason doesn’t have a lot of spare time, between being a father, husband, teacher and coach, but he does enjoy reading. He’s currently into non-fiction books and highly recommends his last read: Undaunted Courage, a biography about Lewis and Clark. He enjoys going to the movies but doesn’t get to the theater much. “Unless it’s Star Wars,” he laughs, “Then I figure out how to go many times!” He used to play in a men’s hockey league, but the late-night start time wasn’t working. He’s recently discovered Krav Maga, which are self-defense classes. “I do that once or twice a week, and now Emily is interested in it, too."
Jason’s putting his background in biochemistry to work in the Priory classroom now, teaching AP Chemistry, Chemistry, and Junior School Science. He’s assistant coaching hockey, and will also serve as assistant coach for the lacrosse team. He believes that coaching is good support for his work in the classroom. “The students see you outside the academic setting when you coach. They see you as a well-rounded individual and that helps build the relationship. I’m not a teaching robot that powers down when they leave the classroom,” he said. He considers himself still a student as well. “With the different styles of the kids I teach, and the different places I’ve been, I’m always learning.” He also sees his role as teacher going beyond imparting the chemistry and science knowledge his students expect. “I want them to understand the skill content, to gain skills they can use in different classes, not just chemistry class. I’m trying to help them build that work ethic, to build accountability. I’m trying to build habits that will make these kids better people, not just better students.”
Look for Jason in classrooms in the High School and Junior School, and on the sidelines at hockey and lacrosse. Or, one day a year, at IHOP with his family. Welcome, Jason!