Clay High Coaches Are Pros in the Classroom as Well; History, Psychology and Sports Come Together for Three Top Teachers

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH REESE CRAVEY

In the classroom, they appear to be typical teachers.

Pacing from one side to the other, they engage their students with the intrigue of world and U.S. history and the nuances of psychology.

They don't necessarily look like secret weapons in Clay High School's ongoing push toward the top of the academic heap. But Advanced Placement teachers Rodney Keller, James Reape and Matthew Toblin are just that, said Principal Pete McCabe, because their after-school duties at Clay High give them a unique relatability to their top-flight AP students during the school day.

After the bell rings, the professional shirts, slacks and ties are replaced with sweats and they turn into coaches.

"Three coaches who are AP teachers. That doesn't happen too often. This is a unique situation ... unique skills," McCabe said. "These guys are true educators."

As such, they helped Clay High bring its state grade up from a D in 2009 to a B for 2010, based on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test results. The school barely missed getting an A.

All three coaches said they love both their jobs.

"Coaching is teaching and vice versa," said Reape. "However, coaching provides you the latitude to extend yourself in ways that the classroom doesn't. Inevitably the better and worse angels come out of you for your student-athlete to see. This gives you a deeper sense of humanity in their eyes and helps them relate. This is both a blessing and a bane, but on balance it is far more a positive.

"The deepness of relationships in sport and the drive to excel only reinforces my drive to make class challenging and interesting," Reape said.

Keller, Reape and Toblin are popular with students, who said the coaches not only know their material, but how to get and keep students' attention in the classroom. …