Employee Spotlight: Former educator serving his community with intent and humor

John Wood - Employee SpotlightOur employee spotlight this time is no stranger to Teach. Learn. Grow. John Wood, Assessment & Education Senior Analyst, is a nine year veteran of NWEA, and has been a regular contributor on the blog since it launched. He latest blog, Reading Stamina: What is it? Can I plan for it?, is an example of how well he is able to take complex topics and explain them in way that is relatable. John also is one of our many remote workers who help keep our organization well connected with our partners’ needs nationwide. There is much to be said also about how humorous he can be in any setting. Hope you enjoy learning more about John, his response to the last question was truly a surprise!

What is your area of specialty at NWEA?

I would say my specialty is using 35+ years of experience in public education to help create good solutions for partners. I have worked on a number of projects including CCSS tests, the Learning Continuum, Skills Navigator and the Instructional Content Provider program.

What drew you to work at NWEA?

The intellectual nature of the work was key in choosing NWEA over other options.  My item writing experience for ETS and others was the skill that immediately drew me to NWEA.

How did you end up residing primarily in Maryland?

My family moved to the Eastern Shore when I was a 6th grader uprooted from Statesboro, Georgia.  Family and work have kept me on the Shore except for my college years.

As remote employee how are you able to connect to the NWEA mission of helping all kids learn?

Writing and reviewing items, and developing goal structures for MAP is easily done remotely.  My current team, Academic Services, was tasked over the last six years with a number of important projects that directly impacted the mission. Our team developed a bond that though we were in Portland, St. Paul and Cambridge, it felt as if we were in the same room.

Who was your favorite – or most memorable – teacher and why?

Laszlo Dominey – Mr Dominey was an Olympic diver for Hungary in 1948 and fled the Communists in the early 50s, swimming to freedom.  He had a dueling scar on his cheek that scared us to death, but he could really teach Latin. I remember he was not politically correct, telling one girl, “Phyllis, you will bear strong children one day.”  I still smile when I think of how in awe we were and how we shrank before his gaze. Outside the classroom, he was a respected tennis coach.

Tell us about a favorite book from your childhood.

I can’t think of a book but I can think of a movie: “Sink the Bismarck.”  I remember having to weed yards in the Georgia sun to earn the money—probably a quarter, maybe a dime—to earn money for the ticket.  It was the best money I ever spent.  I still sit tall when I hear Johnny Horton’s theme song.  It may explain my bad musical taste…

What’s the most unusual or interesting place you’ve traveled?

I had the privilege to travel to Kathmandu a year before the horrible earthquake and see sites that no one will see again. Unfortunately, my experience was a little limited by a broken neck.  As a golfer, playing 36 holes at Pebble Beach was also a bucket list experience, as was attending the Master’s in Augusta, Georgia.

What is something you feel is unique about you or your childhood? How did it shape you?

As a child I moved to Georgie from Pennsylvania where I was born. In 3rd or 4th grade a classmate told the teacher I did something that I actually did not do. The teacher proceeded to tell the whole class that they should not trust a Yankee and to be careful of me. When I became a teacher that experience helped me realize the power a teacher has over children and helped me empathize with students who might feel left out.

What words do you live by?

On my desk I have two quotes, one by the Buddhist Atisha that is too long for this page, but centers me—my colleagues might say I need to read it more often. The other is from Seneca: “We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than reality.” I frequently need that reminder.

If you could do one thing to make sure all kids learn, what would it be?

Provide them with parents who create a family value that says learning is important.

Tell me something that inspires awe in you?

Any place of great natural beauty.  Here that would be sunsets on the Chesapeake Bay or a long bike ride through the marsh of Blackwater Refuge.

What is something you think people would be surprised to know about you?

I have coached state championship teams in golf and basketball—one as head and one as assistant coach.