Meet Math Instructor Jacob O’Brien
Jacob O’Brien has been a math instructor at Asheville School since 2018. He has worked in secondary education since 2005, and currently teaches Quantitative Reasoning I and II.
He also serves as a soccer coach and a dorm parent.
Tell me about the students at Asheville School.
I’ve been a teacher for 14 years now, and I don’t believe I’ve been around a set of more genuine, kind caring students as a whole. They really care about this community, they care about each other, they care about the relationships between themselves and teachers and faculty and staff. It’s been the bright spot of living here.
What’s it like to live on campus?
It’s amazing. I had no boarding experience before, so I wasn’t from a boarding school. I worked at a day school in Jacksonville, Florida. Being part of a boarding school was interesting to me, but I didn’t realize how involved I would be in the students’ day to day lives and how they would be involved in mine.
You know, my girls will break out of our apartment and run down the hall and say ‘hi’ to all the kids, and the kids come and knock on the door and take my dogs for a walk and they play with the girls. Just today, a student asked if my kids could come and entertain them while they are packing to leave. It’s that kind of interaction that has been so great.
It’s incredible to see different sides of the kids. Whether they are in the classroom, or on the field, or at a student’s play or performance you just get to see the best of the kids at every single moment. You get to see them at their worst too and how they react to that. Helping them guide themselves through these formative years here at school is a big responsibility. At the same time, it is one that I have loved to take on and love to see them at all different moments.
What’s it like teaching Math here?
Teaching math is great. I am part of the quantitative reasoning programs, so giving the students the opportunity to experience math in a different way is very exciting. We are having the student be able to come up through our program and be able to see what they’ve accomplished in the past. We are trying to develop their program such that, a student comes in, their first day at Asheville School and we can see what they’ve done concept-wise all the way through their junior year. We will have a digital record of exactly what they’ve done. I think that’s a really big deal. I think if a student can walk out of Asheville School and look back and say, ‘this is what I’ve accomplished,’ that will help them prepare better for what they will see at the college level.
Other schools do not have access to math teachers like I have seen Asheville School have access to math teachers. During study hall I’ve received emails that say ‘Mr. O’Brien, can you pop in and help me?’ Over this weekend we were traveling for the state quarterfinals for soccer and one of the students said ‘Mr. O’Brien, the AP Calc test is on Tuesday, can you give me a hand?’
The access to teachers is great. I think that is the no. 1 support. There is always someone who is on their side. There is always someone with the knowledge in the material that is available to help them.
What defines the Asheville School experience?
Community and the idea of Home Away from Home. Community is first. Their interpersonal relationships and their relationships with faculty and staff and just feeling like they’re somewhere where they are welcomed and comfortable and home so that they can be the best student they can possibly be.
I think that’s what defines the Asheville School experience. That’s what’s different about this place. When you walk on campus and see how faculty interact with faculty and how students interact with students – I couldn’t believe it. It was like they had known each other their whole lives.
If I was going to send my child to boarding school, I would feel comfortable knowing they were cared for in the best fashion here at Asheville School. Each individual kid is recognized and known and understood.