Ian Pope Meets Students at the Intersection of Hope and Their Choices

A strong school community values accountability and self-worth.

Ian Pope is an alternative education paraprofessional and coach of the junior varsity boys basketball team at Reservoir High School in Howard County.

“We have to reach each student where they are and help raise them up to be where they need to be for success. “ — Ian Pope

If you’ve ever driven a car you have noticed there are intersections everywhere — some big, some small. Choices at these intersections define what roads lie ahead. This is where I meet my students.

As an alternative education paraprofessional, I act as a traffic light at that intersection, helping students find the road that best suits them with a combination of vulnerability and experience that they can relate to.

Vulnerability plays an essential role in educating students. As educators we forget we used to be teenagers! As students come to into my room, I can often tell what they’re feeling and what type of day they’re having. Sometimes a simple “I’ve been there and done that,” is all they need to start a dialogue, start to process, and get back on the road.

My experiences as a single father, student (I’m working towards my degree), and basketball coach allow me to reach students across social and ethnic backgrounds. We have to reach each of them where they are and help raise them up to where they need to be for success. For me, this often starts with different handshakes for each student and greeting them one by one as they pass in the hallway.

The community atmosphere at Reservoir High School fosters accountability and self-worth. I see that daily as a staff member and JV boys basketball coach. Our students know they are not alone. I regularly attend school events that my students are a part of to provide them with a familiar face in the audience. Living in the community helps further that friendly accountability whenever I run into students at local establishments.

Intersections provide an opportunity to seek direction, choose successful roads, and allow for detours. With the help and support of fellow staff at Reservoir, I help students find their own custom vehicle for the ride.