A new Gryphon
"Second to my marriage and my faith, this is really the best thing that I can imagine myself doing," Gregory Stearns said about his new position as the logic II and philosophy teacher at Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy (TJCA).
Stearns, 26, came to TJCA in a very unique way. Before becoming a teacher, he was an admissions counselor for Berea College in Kentucky. He visited TJCA on several occasions to recruit students for the college.
"I had been to schools all over the place, some good schools and some not so good ones, and Thomas Jefferson was without a doubt the best one I had ever walked into," Stearnes said. "I presented in Mr. (Jeff) Ziegler's classroom eight or nine times and it was always a good experience. One day he and I got to talking and I asked him how someone would get a job at a place like this."
Ziegler, who is the academic dean at TJCA, set up an interview for Stearns and the rest is history.
"It feels great to be a teacher. Some of the most influential people in my life were teachers and if not teachers, they were people who took on the role of teachers for me," Stearns said. "It's nice to have some sort of influence on the kids. It's even nicer, as a concerned citizen, to help people learn how to think."
Stearns received a degree in philosophy from Berea College. After receiving his degree, he spent two years in seminary at a Catholic university in Washington D.C.
"After a couple of years in seminary, I didn't feel like that was what I was called to do. So I left and went to Berea and then found my way here," Stearns said. "I found that the parts of admissions and the parts of seminary that I liked the most revolved around the teaching aspect. Then I decided that's what I should have been doing."
At TJCA Stearns teaches the juniors in logic II and students of all grade levels in philosophy.
"This is something that isn't just valuable if you want to do computers or for one field. Philosophy and logic are tool that will help in anything you do," Stearns said. "We live in a world where everyone is trying to tell us what to believe. It's great to have a discipline that examines why we believe."
In his logic class the students are looking at examples of good and bad arguments to distinguish between good reasons for belief and bad reasons for belief. They have recently been discussing arguments for and against abortion.
"These kids are going to have lots of arguments and opinions thrown at them their entire life. Through the study of logic, they're going to find out how to tell whether or not that's something worth believing in," Stearns said. "I'm not handing them a set of truths to believe in, I'm handing them a framework by which to judge whether something is true or false."
For philosophy the class will be reading "The Trial and Death of Socrates," which includes four dialogues of Plato. Each dialogue will provide different topics of discussion for the students like ethics, human nature, political philosophy and virtue.
"I got to build the curriculum for philosophy and I built it as a college-preporitory course. I sat down and looked at some of my early philosophy syllabi from Berea and thought of some of the things that were most helpful and some of the things I could use for them to succeed when they get to college and take a class," Stearns said. "Reading them through the themes that come up in Plato is commonly done. It's been said that all of Western philosophy consists of footnotes of Plato."
Stearns said that one of the reasons he pursued the job at TJCA was the curriculum and the school's commitment to its students and their education. He believes that most schools teach in a way where the students will score well on tests.
"It should be about teaching people how to think and I haven't seen any other schools who do that as well as Thomas Jefferson. That's why the school appealed to me," Stearns said.
He said he feels like he is part of a family now and hopes to get more involved in some of the school's extracurricular activities soon.
"Teaching is what I'm passionate about. I could talk philosophy and logic all day and I get to come and do that. It's perfect," Stearns said. "Just working in a high school atmosphere is great. But it's also great to work in one that if formed by people who I think really have the right idea of what a high school should be and are passionate about it. It's infectious and that is what has made this great."