By David Fong
TROY — For Jeremy Hughes, all roads led back home.
Eventually, that is.
“This feels normal,” the first-year teacher said as he sat in his classroom inside the Van Cleve Sixth Grade Building. “This feels right.”
It’s taken Hughes, a Troy High School graduate, the bulk of his adult life to get to that place, but the journey — for all its twists and turns — was well worth it.
“Obviously at age 33, I’m not your typical first-year teacher,” Hughes said. “But what I was doing before just didn’t feel right. This absolutely feels right. There is no doubt in my mind this is where I am supposed to be. I love it here. This is home for me. This is where I belong.”
Even if it didn’t always necessarily feel that way.
Following his graduation from Troy High School, Hughes attended Edison Community College, where he took classes and played on the Charger basketball team. He then transferred to Wright State University, where he found himself at a crossroads as he stared down the remainder of his undergraduate career.
“I had graduated from Edison with a general business degree,” he said. “I had always been kind of interested in education, but when I got to Wright State, I had more credit hours in business. Life just sort of happened. I just wanted to finish school, so I graduated with a degree in organizational leadership.”
Which may sound like a fancy degree — although it didn’t exactly turn out that way for Hughes.
“It allowed me to rent cars,” Hughes said with a laugh. “Then the recession hit, and I got laid off. That’s when I started working part-time at the Lincoln Center. That was great, but working part-time at a non-profit organization doesn’t pay the bills.”
While working at the Lincoln Community Center in Troy may not have provided Hughes the financial sustenance he needed, it may have given him something much more beneficial — a glimpse into his future. While working with the LCC youth programs, Hughes realized his true calling in life.
“That’s when I knew for sure I wanted to be a teacher,” he said. “I totally grew up next door to the center. Both of my parents worked at the center. When the center would close at night, all of the kids would come over to my house and hang out. It had a huge impact on my life.”
Once he knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, it was a matter of accomplishing that goal — while at the same time starting a family. He would end up enrolling in Urbana University’s post-baccalaureate program, while at the same time working at the school’s Student Success Center as a tutor to help pay the bills.
The days were long, the work was hard — and Hughes sometimes was left to wonder what he had gotten himself into.
“I was very nervous,” Hughes said of going back to school after he had already celebrated his 30th birthday. “I remember when I was at Wright State and I was 18 or 19 years old, I remember seeing the older people in class. Now I was one of the older people in class. I was freshly married and looking to start my family. I was very nervous.”
Once classes started in earnest, however, Hughes once again knew he had made the right decision.
“The classes I took were very engaging,” he said. “I was really getting into them — and I felt like I was really getting something out of them.”
Following his graduation from Urbana, Hughes would return to Troy to do his student teaching at Forest Elementary School.
“I did my student teaching with Kris Pascale — she’s someone who has had a huge impact on me,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of great teachers growing up who have really inspired me. I had Mr. Orr and Mr. Zimmer at the high school and Mrs. Fong at St. Patrick — people who believed in me and never gave up on me. They were my inspiration to become a teacher.”
Now that he’s back in the Troy City Schools — and coaching junior varsity basketball at Troy High School — Hughes said the long and winding road he took to get where is is was worth it.
“I love being back in the Troy schools,” he said. “I feel so comfortable here.”
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong