Flowing Like a River Through Academics and Sports

Valerie Xu

Jacob Rivers never planned on teaching high school English at Greenhill, but one visit to its campus last spring changed that.

Astonished by Greenhill’s diverse campus and close-knit community, Rivers was ready to leave Massachusetts for Greenhill. .

“I had pretty much already decided to take another job before coming to Greenhill, but after my first trip, I immediately knew I wanted to teach here,” Rivers said. “The environment of the classroom and the students at Greenhill were so welcoming and diverse.”

Coming from Brooklyn, Rivers has been teaching English for the past 5 years. In addition to teaching English, Rivers was also a college athlete in football and track and field. Most recently, Rivers taught English and coached football, basketball, strength & conditioning and track at Williston Northampton in Massachusetts.

Although teaching high school English was not what Rivers expected to be with his Creative Writings Major after college, he soon developed a strong passion for it after interacting with his students. His love of English is rooted in his insatiable curiosity and desire to understand how others interpret the world, Rivers said.

“To me, English is the most important subject because English teaches you how to interpret the world around you and those skills apply to every area,” Rivers said. “That is why I am so passionate about it, because the skills I gain from teaching English helps me analyze daily problems and situation.”

His ability to quickly forge close bonds with his students has positioned him to teach his students life skills outside of the textbook curriculum.

“One of the things that stood out to me about Mr. Rivers was that he was able to engage with the students,” English Department head Joel Garza said. “Not only was he willing to talk about course material, like the books on the shelf, but he was also willing to talk about developing relationships on and off campus, which helped to connect students.”.

For Garza, it was important to have a teacher who was passionate about English and had the ability to grow Greenhill’s English department in reading, writing and relationship building.

Due to his ability to easily connect with students and help them grasp new ideas and concepts in class,  Rivers seemed like the right candidate, Garza said.

Rivers said he believes it’s his obligation as a teacher to guide his students, not only in English but in high school life in general. He believes that if he does nothing to teach his students how to navigate  life, no one else will.

This willingness to make an impact and improve his students’ daily lives outside  the classroom impressed Garza. His devotion to his students extends  to the athletic department, where he is currently an assistant coach for football and track and field. .

“It was exciting to have someone that was going to be engaged from the very beginning with our football and track program,” Garza said. “We have never had someone as engaged as Mr. Rivers with our students all year long in the athletics and academic program.”

His complete commitment to  the Greenhill community is a perfect reflection of the school’s equilateral triangle of academics, athletics and arts, Garza said.

“Anytime a student trusts an instructor, anytime a colleague trusts another colleague, you’re willing to go out of your way and you’re willing to try as hard as you can,” Garza said. “And Mr. Rivers has already a lot of that trust with his students and colleagues. And the great thing is we are only just beginning to see the fruits of those relationships he has fostered.”