While still fairly new to being an educator, Jeremy Lapka quickly found his stride and developed his own unique teaching style. A native of Fargo, N.D., Lapka made the move to Iowa to attend Drake University, initially seeking the actuarial science program.
“I wanted to go in to math,” he says. “Then I did an internship and realized cubicle life was not for me. My mom was a teacher, and I liked the everyday interactions that came with teaching, so went down that road instead.”
After spending his first year teaching in Sioux Falls, S.D., Lapka returned to Iowa. He has spent the past two years at Prairie Ridge Middle School, teaching math and science to seventh graders. He tries to draw from his own memories of his experience in middle school to set the tone for his classes.
“When I was in school, I liked more of a conversation, so that’s how I run my class,” he says. “Sometimes students can go through a whole day without really talking. So I give them time to talk, in an academic language.”
Lapka sets high standards for his students, and he strives to help them build group work skills.
“When we go into the world, on to college and the work force, we’re always working with people,” Lapka says. “So why not let them work together and teach them how to work together, giving them the opportunity to use one another to advance themselves?”
When each new year begins, Lapka makes sure to let his new class know he is an avid Minnesota Vikings fan. So his students often come to class ready to let him know the outcome of a game.
“The kids always have some little chant or saying to rub it in when one of their favorite teams beats mine,” he laughs.
Lapka finds it reaffirming when, after spending extra time with more challenging kids who may push his buttons, they let him know he made a difference for them at the end of the year.
“When at the end of the year they go out of their way to say thank you,” he says. “You may not have seen it every day, but that there was a connection, and you impacted their life. The first time it happened, I realized I did the right thing when I became a teacher.”