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Blue Tiger Bio: Dr. Jordan Jay

Lincoln University | April 1st, 2022

On Dr. Jordan Jay's profile on the Lincoln University School of Education's online faculty directory, there is the following quote from Scottish scholar William Barclay: "There are two great days in a person's life -- the day we are born, and the day we discover why."

For Dr. Jay, the latter day came completely by surprise.

"It would have been the first time I did substitute teaching," Dr. Jay said. "I walked in and just felt completely comfortable in that environment. It just hit me that -- I think I finally found what I'm supposed to do."

Despite his father being a professor and head of the pre-medicine department at Truman State University, Dr. Jay originally had no interest in teaching.

"I got into retail, and at that point in time, people were making a lot of money in retail," Dr. Jay said. "I worked my way into management and became a troubleshooter for a company and eventually ended up opening up my own business."

Dr. Jay remembers one day when a friend walked into his establishment and wanted to purchase the business. He made his friend an offer, and to his surprise, the offer was quickly accepted. Dr. Jay ended up spending a year traveling the United States before his dad sat him down and encouraged him to figure out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

"I started college, and it was kind of fun. I had a good time socializing with everybody," Dr. Jay said. "I started pre-med, and (discovered) that was definitely not what I wanted to do. I liked to travel, so I got into geography. One of the professors was also the education person in that department, and he kept telling me,'You need to be a teacher! You've got that ability to talk and to communicate well.'"

One day, Dr. Jay was called into this professor's office, because he was going to a conference with another educator who needed someone to cover their class. Dr. Jay agreed, unaware that it would become one of the most momentous decisions of his life.

"I walked in (the classroom) and was like, '[the professor] is conning me into coming in to try and become a teacher,' so I went into it with a bad attitude," Dr. Jay laughs. "But by the end of the day, I was having a blast. So, the next day I went back to his office and told him he'd convinced me. I was changing my major."

Growing up as the son of a college professor gave Dr. Jay an appreciation for both the lifestyle and the discipline required to be a successful instructor in the field of higher education. While Dr. Jay originally planned to teach younger kids, he eventually decided to follow in his father's footsteps and pursue a Ph.D.

"Once I got into education, as opposed to staying with the little kids, I thought I could have more of an impact with the big kids, because they're the ones going out to teach the little kids," Dr. Jay said. "So, I could teach 25 little kids, or I could teach 25 big kids who then go teach 25 kids each, and all of a sudden, I've expanded what it is that I am trying to teach."

When it came time to choose a teaching position at a university, Dr. Jay ended up interviewing at three schools, one of which was Lincoln. After his final interview at another university, Dr. Jay returned home to find 10 messages on his answering machine; nine of them were from Lincoln.

"The thing that really sold me on Lincoln was when I came back down to talk with them, and I met with the entire faculty," Dr. Jay said. "It was just like a family. I mean, it was unbelievable how they interacted, laughed and had a good time. So, I ended up here. It was the perfect place to be."

While many things have changed at LU during his tenure, Dr. Jay has appreciated the relationships he's been able to develop with his students and the fun memories he's shared with his co-workers.

"We haven't for years, but we used to have faculty dinners and get-togethers within the colleges," Dr. Jay said. "I always enjoyed those because of the off-campus interaction you would get with other individuals, and you would get to meet their families. Those things really made us feel like a family and kind of congealed everybody."

Following his passions, Dr. Jay has spent over 20 years encouraging the future teachers of tomorrow. One student comes to his mind as someone he has been privileged to mentor.

"I had one student, it was probably 20 years ago, in class, and he just plodded along, just making basic grades and didn't really have any direction in life," Dr. Jay recalls. "He was studying education because everyone else in his family was in education, and he thought that's what he was supposed to do. I called him into the office one day, and we sat in here and had a conversation about, What do you like? What do you like to do?'

"He thought about it, and he switched majors, because he thought that was the route he wanted to go down. Well, after he switched majors, he figured out that all the things he had listed (in our conversation) weren't really for that major, they were really for teaching. So, he called me and said he was graduating because he was so close to that degree, but could he come back and become certified. And I said, 'Yes!'

"As soon as he graduated, he came back and took the additional classes he needed, and he was a straight-A student! He got it! He understood why he was where he was supposed to be. He's been teaching now in the Jefferson City Public School System since he got out."

Thanks to Dr. Jay's passion and enthusiasm for the field of education, many generations of students at all levels have discovered their own personal "why" with the help of teachers who have graduated from Lincoln University.