Missouri State University
Jason Orr

Jason Orr

Being a teacher was always the dream

Sometimes dreams are put on hold. Sometimes they just fade away completely.

But, the dream of becoming a teacher held true for Jason Orr, although he would wait upwards of 20 years before he would finally return to the classroom.

He started out on the path to becoming an educator, heading straight off to college after high school.

“I actually attended Missouri State-West Plains for three semesters immediately after high school with the thought of being a teacher and coach,” Orr said. “Things didn’t quite go as planned as I chose work over school.”

Besides work, his path included getting married and starting a family. He worked full-time retail for 20 years.

His wife is an elementary teacher. After years of watching from the sidelines, he decided in 2016 to return to the classroom. He chose Missouri State-West Plains to pursue his education. 

Being a student again

Returning to school was not without worry.

“I was 17 years removed from my last seated class. I hadn't had Math or English in so long. I was terrified that I would have to relearn everything.”

He credits Missouri State with easing the stress. Taking it slow, and starting off with just a class or two a semester, made his coursework manageable.

Although time-management is always a worry, he feels like he has it under control. Online classes help.

“I always knew I wanted this field, I just took a different path to get here.”

He can balance his workload alongside family (which includes two daughters, ages 10 and 7), work and church.

Finding a mentor

Jane Ward was particularly helpful in setting him on his current path.

“She is such a great mentor that has helped me to get where I needed to be, enrolled in the classes I needed, as well as just someone who has been around the education field for 40 years that can give us tips and tricks to help us along the way.”

Although returning to school as a nontraditional student has its challenges, Orr’s persevering.

And out of it, he’s gaining a level of respect for the struggles his own future students will face.

He’s also finding his own capabilities for teaching, in the college classroom. 

“...I had several of the ‘younger’ students emailing and messaging me asking for help with a certain question or project.  I spent a lot of time stressing over my own work but then I realized I was not only keeping up, but I was able to help other students who might have been struggling.”

Realizing his dream

Perseverance is paramount for Jason. In his years of working retail, he kept his dream of being an educator alive. Sometimes what he saw, while doing his retail job, gave him more of a reason to become an educator.

“I have worked in retail for 21 years and I see family interaction at its best and its worst. I see how some kids are treated in public by their parents and my heart hurts for how they are treated when no one is watching. I want to make a difference, to have that chance to be the best part of that kid’s day.”

Jason will graduate with his elementary education degree in 2021. He would like to teach upper elementary, in the community where he lives.