DIVE DEEPER | To learn more about recommendations from OEA members about solutions to address the growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis, click here.
- Jeff Crask, Manchester Ohio River Educators member
- Jeff Crask returned to teaching at Manchester High School in Adams County for the 2022-2023 school year, after retiring from teaching in 2014. He has agreed to return to Manchester High School for the 2023-2024 school year, too.
- Crask served three years in the US Army, 1975-1978, as a Medical Specialist, Stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. After the Army, Crask earned his BS in Biology at Campbellsville University, Campbellsville, Kentucky, in 1984. Cabpbellsville University had about 600 students at the time. In 1986, he received an MS in Botany from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
- Before taking his first teaching job as a chemistry teacher at Knott County Central High School in Hindman, Kentucky, Crask was the overnight DJ at rock station WKQQ in Lexington, Kentucky, which he described as his dream job at the time. Crask described his first year of teaching at Knott County Central High School as a nightmare, saying "I didn't know much about Chemistry and I sure didn't know how to discipline students."
- Crask had a much better first year when he became a Biology/Chemistry Teacher at Manchester High School, where he taught from 1992 until 2014. He didn't know anyone when he moved to the area for the job, but enjoyed the small class sizes, especially. His biggest class had 20 students, while his Anatomy class only had five students.
- After 22 years at Manchester High School, Crask retired in 2014. He worked at Amazon and then Walmart. "I found out that I'm not very good at working really fast for 8-10 hours. Oh well," Crask said of the experience.
- In 2022, Crask says his former coworkers from Manchester High School kept asking him to come back and teach again, or the students weren't going to have a Biology teacher, so after some soul-searching he told them he would. Crask says he had a great year and will teach at least one more. "It was nice to use the science equipment again," he said.
- Crask has three grown children, James, Juliana, and Jack. James teaches Kindergarten in Portsmouth, Ohio!
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- Education Matters host Katie Olmsted serves as Media Relations Consultant for the Ohio Education Association. She joined OEA in May 2020, after a ten-year career as an Emmy Award winning television reporter, anchor, and producer. Katie comes from a family of educators and is passionate about telling educators' stories and advocating for Ohio's students. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and two young children.
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Katie Olmsted 0:16
Thanks for joining us for this episode of Education Matters, your source for insightful conversations about the issues and people shaping the public education landscape in Ohio today. I'm Katie Olmsted, and throughout this season of the podcast, we've had a number of conversations about the growing number of educators who are choosing to leave the profession and the challenges getting new educators to take their place. There are a lot of factors driving that trend, and there is so much to get into there. But on this episode, we're getting into what happens when someone retires from a hard-to-fill job and then no one comes along to fill it. For Jeff Crask, that meant stepping back into his former job at his former school to try to fill the need until another candidate came along. Crask spent more than two decades as a science teacher in Manchester City Schools in Adams County, just under an hour drive along the Ohio River west from Portsmouth. He retired in 2014. And ended up working a few other jobs to fill his time and cover his health insurance needs. Well, he was working at Walmart when his old employer and many others started reaching out to him to ask him to come back to the classroom. And eventually he did, teaching biology, chemistry and anatomy at Manchester High School this school year, making him a first year teacher with 26 years of teaching experience. I had a lot of questions about how all of this came to be and what he has thought of his decision to come out of retirement. So we asked him to join us for this episode.
Katie Olmsted 2:04
Jeff Crask, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us and share your story. This is your return to the classroom. What can you tell me about how you ended up back where you were?
Jeff Crask 2:19
Well, I retired eight years ago, almost nine now, in 2014. And I had taught 26 years, so I thought Well, that's that's good enough. And, you know, that I'd had a good run here at Manchester. And I actually, when I came here there was I didn't know a sou. It was you know, there was a job. And I ended up being here 22 years. So that was you know, that was the longest stretch of staying in one place that I had done, because it just turned out fine. You didn't have classes with 10 or 12 students for chemistry or the advance classes and like, Oh, my this is this is great. You know, and the kids behaved really well. It was the - compared to the other place I taught which was down in Eastern Kentucky it was like, Oh my! I didn't even know there was nice public school like this, you know. So I think I got off track. I'm sorry. But anyway, so in 2014, I retired, I thought well, I'll be alright. But then I realized that I was trying to cover health insurance for my family and it was getting kind of expensive, so I started working - I saw an ad where Amazon was just begging people to come and work there. So I tried that out for a couple of years. And and then I did some other things ended up back here at Walmart and West Union, which is in Adams County. And I worked there for a little over a year. But people that I knew from here, were coming up to me and say we we really need a science teacher. And I was getting some emails from the superintendent. And he was like, Would you please consider coming back even if it's only for a year? And so I get turned down a few times. But then finally, we were like, Oh, I really think you'd like it. It's you'll have small classes it will be - you know, and then I started thinking Well, planning period and get to play with the science equipment again. I love teaching chemistry, even though I was a biology major. And you know, might have summers, Summer, okay. It's like, I joke that I had a weak moment. But I told him, I sent an email to the superintendent said, Okay, I'll take a shot at it. So, and now school is over. And I'm I'm really glad I did it. It was it was a little rough at the beginning. They had had to get some kids settled down not not just me. But all of us we'd had you know, it just we've got to tame this a little bit, but I think I helped because I you know, kind of came back to me how to deal with them. So I'll never have that drill sergeant thing really go on but I you know, I just tried to reason with him and just tell them they're not gonna act that way and, and ended up being a pretty smooth year, especially after Christmas.
Katie Olmsted 4:49
So there is a lot to talk about in that entire story. But let's start back in 2014. You mentioned you had taught for 26 years at that point, and it wasn't your first career. You didn't go into teaching right after college or anything like that you would you'd spend some time in the Army. Is that correct?
Jeff Crask 5:07
Yeah, three years in the Army.
Katie Olmsted 5:09
Three years in the Army. And then you came into teaching for 26 years. In 2014, what made you decide that was it, it's time to get out of teaching for now? I'm sure at that time, it was like it's time to get out of teaching, period. It just later turned out to be 'for now.'
Jeff Crask 5:24
Yeah. Well, it had gotten pretty hostile from politicians at the time. And we kept hearing things like, Well, you think this test is bad? Wait, all the one that's coming up - You know, it was just this just sort of some bad negativity that was just kind of coming down the pipe. There was Senate Bill 5 that got passed. And, you know, it was like, they threw that on us. And it's like, you know, something about we were driving Ohio bankrupt. And it's just, it just it, you know, it was just gotten kind of strange. Like, I I'm just kind of trying to teach them science. You know, but it was that it just, I mean, just just some burnout. You know, I mean, we hardly have discipline problems here. But it still started seeming like I just, I just don't want to deal with this. Really like 2012, 2013, I was really getting anxious in August, like, I just don't know if I can go to this again. I don't know. I think that happens to a lot of people. But so I had a chance - I had hit the I was able to buy some years because the Army and in Kentucky that I was able to I hit that 25/55 where you could retire. And I thought Well, I'm at least go give it a try. So I did.
Katie Olmsted 6:32
And you mentioned things have gotten pretty hostile back then. What a time to jump right back in! Things have gotten pretty hostile, again, you know, with with the divisive concepts bills, and all of the things that have been coming down the pipeline over the last few years. It's a tough time to be a public school educator.
Jeff Crask 6:51
It may be that with eight years off, ignorance is bliss. Because I really haven't been keeping track of it that much, you know, because again, it was kind of a surprise that I was hearing from people and - But that hasn't hit me too hard, because I know, you know, now I know I'm not looking at, you know, 20 years to try to feed my family and that sort of thing. I'm just sort of helping out. But yeah, you know, I see a lot of things about, you know, teachers just leaving in droves. And I know, nobody's majoring in, in education. I think they go watch a couple of classes and say, Man, I'm not sure I want to do that, or, or just all the hoops you got to jump through.
Katie Olmsted 7:30
That probably is one of the reasons why you were needed so badly, why they came knocking and calling and showing up at Walmart to say, hey, come back. I think that's that's the state of affairs right now.
Jeff Crask 7:44
Yeah. And I was glad to help out it. Like I said, it took me a while, but I thought Well, you know, they were they were really good to me here. I certainly didn't leave on any kind of bad terms with Manchester. You know, it was like they, it was, that was another nice thing, it was like, we really don't want you to go but you know, you've got to do what you got to do kind of thing. So, you know, and I thought this is, this is a pretty poor town, especially if there was a flood way back in '96, but no one's really put any money into the town since then. And, you know, but, but kids were great. When I taught here, we used to talk about how this was kind of a little Miracle School. We would have great test scores, and, and the kids would behave, you know, even though some of them were just from some some bad circumstances. So, you know, I, I thought, why not? I'll give it a try. And, and it took a little while. The kids warmed back up to me. So, you know, I told him that I'd been here and had - "Oh, yeah, you had my mom!"
Katie Olmsted 8:41
I'm sure that makes you feel very young.
Jeff Crask 8:46
I'm 66. So there's no - That's okay.
Katie Olmsted 8:50
So it's inevitable that you'll end up with a couple of generations of students from the same family.
Jeff Crask 8:55
Katie Olmsted 8:56
So what made you want to be a teacher in the first place?
Jeff Crask 9:00
Well, you know, it's funny, like when I was in high school with my C average, I don't think anybody would have thought there was a guy that's going to end up being a science teacher or, you know, majoring in science. But, I was - when I was in the army, I was a medic, and I worked in the emergency room. So I was I wasn't like out there crawling on the mud. I mean, I worked in a hospital. But just got fascinated by the ad and then decided to major in biology. And I thought, Well, I should go ahead and get a teaching degree while I'm at it. And I was more more interested really in doing the higher level kids just because the I wanted to teach, I wanted to teach the higher stuff.
Katie Olmsted 9:38
Yeah, the science is more fun.
Jeff Crask 9:40
Yeah. So just that thing that I think a lot of us have, I just I love it, so I want to I want you to see what everything I know to show you here. Love showing them demonstrations, especially on chemistry. There's a lot of poof and fire. And biology is a little tricky to teach, because it's a lot of vocabulary, but I try really hard to make it interesting for them and that was a challenge again this year. The chemistry and anatomy were okay, but biology is like goodness, I can't remember what I used to do, how I used to explain this. But I, you know, look at a lot of PowerPoints and, and videos and read a lot. And so, you know, I felt like getting the second semester like I said, got a lot smoother. I felt like I was in the groove.
Katie Olmsted 10:21
Well, I think back to when I was in high school, and I don't have a great mind for science. My sister's a science teacher, very science oriented. But me I, I struggled all the way through, but boy did I love chemistry because of the poof, like, those were really good days. But I also think back to when I was in high school in the early 2000s. And if you retired in 2014, even coming back now, I feel like a lot has probably changed in classrooms since then. Was there a learning curve just to get used to the use of technology and everything like that?
Jeff Crask 10:55
Yeah, I still kind of gravitate to paper and pencil handouts and things. But then I started, you know, like, realize the book that we have, you know, had a CD with it. And then there's nice PowerPoints on there. And sometimes I'm I was like, Oh, I just kind of forgot to use that for this chapter. So yeah, I definitely need to do that. Kids were after me to make Kahoots. And I was like, Well, I'm a little overwhelmed, but I'll try to figure that out. So I'm gonna, I'm gonna work on that some this summer. One nice student actually made one for me in anatomy, I think it was on muscles. And so I really appreciated that. You know, the kids liked it. So yeah, that's, that's something and I certainly see why they they like that, you know, and I'm definitely not a techie. But I don't mind the challenge, you know, learning something new.
Katie Olmsted 11:42
And in your heart, you're a teacher. I mean, my question is, when you retired there was part of you, I'm sure that was like, Oh, the grass is definitely going to be greener on this side, when I'm not in the classroom every day not dealing with that stress. Was the grass greener when you were out of the classroom?
Jeff Crask 11:57
No, the - you don't have the school hanging over your head. You know, the, I've got to get some, I've got to have tomorrow ready. I've got to, you know, I've got to, I've got to do this. I got to do that, you know, where there's, I've got to figure out how to make this kid that I had trouble with today not do that anymore. Or what am I gonna say to him tomorrow, that sort of thing. Although you have some coworkers that, like that. So I don't know, it was you know, that trade off. Like I really didn't mind working through the summer because when I went home, I was done. But on the other hand, especially that - I don't want to be down on Walmart, but it was weird to have 20 year olds coming up to me and like, Hey, what are you doing? Why aren't you doing this? Why aren't you doing that, kind of thing? It's like, Well, they told me to do this. Well, you need to do that. You know, I was like, okay, or just, you know, talk down to you. Like I'm a retired teacher. I'm like, it's not like I'm, you know, was the president once but I, you know, I kind of had a career. Yeah, you know, so that it's funny, because I go in there now. And the managers that, you know, kind of given me a hard time are like, how are ya? How you doing? You know, it's funny, because I kind of just hold my shoulders a little higher, like, you know, I'm making as much as you are now.
Katie Olmsted 13:16
Plot twist. Are they asking you to come back to Walmart now?
Jeff Crask 13:19
Know, they will joke with me like you coming back soon? It's like, Well, I told him I'd do another year or so.
Katie Olmsted 13:25
Okay so let's talk about that. So you told the superintendent in your, *quote* "moment of weakness," yeah, I'll do a year. Because they needed someone to fill this position.
Jeff Crask 13:34
Katie Olmsted 13:34
That, that was at the beginning of this current school year. What's next?
Jeff Crask 13:39
Well, I said, if if anybody with a family, you know, with kids to feed, or you know, wife and kids, or or a husband and kids, you know, a family to feed, you know, needs it, they can have it, I'll gladly step down. But they didn't have anybody. You know, no one - they said, there's just no one out there. You know, and, and also, especially biology that I was talking about, I just felt rusty and I would kind of hate to do a one and done because I like I want to, I want to do what I know I can do. It was - there were some times like, gosh, I I just don't remember how I used to explain this. You don't I mean, but it was fun to relearn it. But I just like how can I put this to you? So you get kind of some blank stares. Like I don't think I explained that very well, did I? So yeah, I would definitely like to do another one. And I'm, I'm born to sign the contract the other day. So seems pretty official.
Katie Olmsted 14:28
I'd say, I'd say. And it's funny that you mentioned that, you know, sometimes it felt like the kids were not getting what you were saying. I want to share with you - and you've seen this - We recently wrapped up a Teacher Appreciation Week campaign where we asked students and parents around the state to tell us what they love about a teacher who's making an impact in their lives. And every person who was nominated gets put into a drawing to win a few pretty nice prizes and some lesser prizes. You ended up with a $25 Visa gift card. So not the the all inclusive vacation. Sorry about that, Jeff.
Jeff Crask 15:07
It's a nice prize. That's okay.
Katie Olmsted 15:09
It's a token of our appreciation for everything you do every day, even if it's just a token. But you are actually nominated three times. Three of your students nominated you for this. And I want to read some of the things they said about you. One of them said, "Mr. Crask is an excellent teacher. He always greets you in the hallways, and is your number one fan. He makes sure you understand everything and always answers questions. Mr. Crask is a great candidate because he really cares for his students, and their wellbeing. I have learned multiple things from Mr. Crask this year, including fermentation, functions of the cell, and ecosystems." Another student wrote, "Mr. Crask always greets his students in the hallways. Mr. Crask always takes the students' feelings into consideration and thinks of fun activities that also give us a learning experience. He makes sure to always go into extra details, so his students understand, and will provide extra help whenever needed. He deserves this recognition." And then there's the third one, *quote,* "He always looks out for his students. He is very kind and considerate to everyone around him." These are, at least for me, still wonderful to see because they show not only are you a very effective teacher, academically - your students are learning from you, and that was something we were worried about in terms of getting yourself back up to speed with how you talk about the material -But it is so clear to me that on a personal level, they're connecting with you as a human and seeing how much you care about them as humans. What is that like for you to have that feedback from them to know, that's how they feel about you one year back in the classroom?
Jeff Crask 16:50
Well it's very nice. I certainly appreciate it. You know, you that's what you're hoping you're doing. But, you know, yeah. You don't get, sometimes you don't get a whole lot of direct feedback. You know, but I like going out in the hallway and greeting them. That's I'll give Harry Long credit for that one that was you know, get out there and, and say hi to them when they come in the door. And so I, I do that, or when they're going by, hey, are you doing all right? You know, I just just want them to know that I know, they're here. That's a biggie and I, and I always want them to want to come into my room. You know, I had teachers that - it's been a long time - that I don't remember them directly addressing any students. It was just kind of telling you what to do, and then they sat back down, and that was kind of it. And so you know, I really want the kids to know that I know they're here. And, you know, we're, I want you to want to come in here. And I hope that today's a good day.
Katie Olmsted 17:45
It's a better day, because you're there for them. That's clear to me.
Jeff Crask 17:50
Well, thank you.
Katie Olmsted 17:52
If there are other educators - I mean, we talk a lot about educators who are considering leaving the profession - if there are other retired educators who are considering getting back into the profession to fill a need, what would you tell them?
Jeff Crask 18:07
Well, I would check it out. I would, you know, some schools or you can walk into a bad situation. You know, that that was part of it here. I knew I knew what I was coming into. You know, I mean, I - Another wonderful thing - I'll get back around to that, but there's still at least five or six teachers that here that were - so the guy like right across the street, or I'm sorry, right across the hall, Mr. Sparks, he was here when I left, you know, so like, This is so strange. He's like, but in a good way, like, Well, you know, it's like, just saying that it's still there, you know. A couple other people down the hallway, so. But I would definitely make sure that, you know, you're you're not getting into a situation where you're, you're not gonna get some some support. There's great support here. You know what I mean? Am I answering the question alright?
Katie Olmsted 19:02
You are, absolutely. And, and I guess the question for me is, you know, it certainly was challenging, it sounds like, for you to come back. And there was a lot to learn again. There was a lot of great support to help you, but it was challenging. Was, was it worth it? Is it worth it?
Jeff Crask 19:19
For me, it was, and I, you know, I had some days in the beginning - we had a sophomore group that was, you know, they were one of those classes, and I had them all, every single one on for biology, and they were so loud. Two of them I had - it's funny, I had two classes that were really difficult to get settled down. And then I had a seventh period class that from day one, they came in, they sat down, they were quiet, it was like, Well, this is incredible! I wish the other classes would do that. So you know, I that I feel like I had a part of just getting things settled down here. You know, helping out with that just you know, the making the environment better. The kids were, you know, at first they were coming in, they were waiting until the bell rang, and then they were coming into class and putting their stuff down and just walking out and going bathroom, not coming back from five minutes. It's like, No, we got to, we got to put a stop to this, you know. This can can't go on. But I think retired teachers also, though, have a, have a pretty good idea of how to deal with that, you know. I had one of those awful first years. I didn't know what to do. I thought I could charm them. You know, I mean, a long, long time in 1986, I guess it was, you know, it was like, I went home with hives on the first day, I'd never never had hives in my entire life. I was like, Oh my gosh. So, but you do have you do know how to handle discipline a little better.
Katie Olmsted 20:41
You've had a lot of practice.
Jeff Crask 20:42
Yeah. Yeah, there you go. You've had a lot of practice. So
Katie Olmsted 20:46
And you are putting that practice back into work, having returned to the classroom, coming back out of retirement because the kids needed you. That is, it should be applauded. And I applaud you for it. Thank you very much.
Jeff Crask 21:01
Katie Olmsted 21:03
Well, Jeff Crask, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.
Jeff Crask 21:06
Oh, my pleasure. I'm very honored those students had those nice things to say to me.
Katie Olmsted 21:14
If you know of an educator with a great story to tell, please send me an email at email@example.com And please make sure you subscribe to Education Matters wherever you get your podcasts so you don't miss a great story in the future. Until next time, stay well.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai