This is the second in the “Pathway Series” of stories on Jeremiah Espersen, a retired Army sergeant pursuing a teaching degree. Read Part 1 here, which covered Espersen’s military career, his move to Yulee, Florida to attend Trinity Baptist College, and his passion for teaching. In Part 2, we check in following his first semester at Trinity Baptist.
Jeremiah Espersen’s first semester at Trinity Baptist College in Jacksonville was a learning experience on several different levels.
On one hand, the 39-year-old Espersen returned to the classroom as a student this past fall following a 21-year career in the U.S. Army, where he attained the rank of Sergeant First Class (SFC).
“I never really enjoyed education, but that was a long time ago. I wanted to prove to my parents and my family that I could do this,” said Espersen, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. Espersen’s mother is a former teacher and school administrator, and his wife Laura is an elementary school teacher. He earned straight A’s on an 18 credit hour-course load at Trinity Baptist. “The semester went really well considering I hadn’t been in school for 20 years.”
On the other hand, Espersen’s Army career included a stint in Fort Huachuca as an instructor for a newly-formed course designed for Afghan intelligence officers. As a result, Espersen occasionally found himself resisting the urge to play backseat instructor during his college classes.
“There were times where, if I were sitting in their seats, I might do something a bit differently,” Espersen said of his professors. That included making a recommendation to a history professor about classroom management. Espersen said the instructor heeded his advice. “I made a recommendation related to the way it was done in the military. I wanted to share some of the experiences that I had without taking over the class.”
Then again, Espersen’s structured military background ended up presenting somewhat of a challenge in more free-flowing classroom environments. He initially struggled with an English composition course that required him to turn in imperfect papers.
“I’m good at English, but she (the professor) treated rough drafts as no big deal,” Espersen said. “I’ve written papers that might influence officers, so I had to get out of the habit that if I submitted a paper, it had to be absolutely perfect.
“That made it difficult to turn my papers in during the timeframe she expected.”
Additionally, the overwhelming majority of Espersen’s classmates were fresh out of high school, which brought up another old habit.
“I didn’t want to treat them like soldiers because that was the only interaction I had with people that age,” he said. “Eventually, it became more of a mentorship relationship.”
While Espersen’s plan is still to become a high school math and English teacher, his first semester at Trinity Baptist sparked his curiosity in biblical studies.
“There’s an element of counseling, which is along the same lines as teaching,” he said. “That was very appealing as I met students in that field.”
Espersen is taking on another full-time course load at Trinity Baptist in the spring. He admits that his first semester back at school had an impact on the amount of quality time he spent with his three children, the oldest of whom is 7 years old.
“Around midterms, I was getting tired of coming home, greeting my wife and kids, and going straight to do my homework,” Espersen said. “I think every parent wants to come home and play with his kids or help with their homework, so I felt a little bit guilty about investing more time in my homework than in my family.”
Espersen credits his wife Laura with helping maintain the balance at home while allowing him to pursue his scholastic goals.
“I have to credit my amazing wife,” he said. “She helped me with getting the kids to understand that I had homework too.”
This story is part of Florida College Access Network’s “Pathway Series”, a year-long project that seeks to highlight the diversity of experiences students face as they pursue postsecondary degrees. Each student will be profiled at the start of the school year, during the fall, in the spring, and during the summer following the conclusion of their first year.