Posted Nov. 10, 2022 — As a busy assistant principal, Jeremy Gates spends his days supporting teachers, visiting classrooms and celebrating student learning.
Yet between after-school activities, professional development sessions and other responsibilities, he carves out time to support his undergraduate alma mater, the University of Houston. He serves on the UH College of Education’s alumni working group, helping strategize ways to increase engagement, and keeps connected to fellow Coogs by attending events such as the fall Homecoming tailgate.
“I continue to be active because I appreciate the experience this institution provided for me and would like others to experience something similar,” said Gates, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in teaching and learning in 2015.
A former middle school English teacher and specialist focused on multilingual programs, he now works as an administrator at Pin Oak Middle School in the Houston Independent School District.
Read more in the Q&A about his interest in teaching, leadership lessons he’s learned — and his brush with a celebrity on campus.
What was your motivation to get into teaching? Did you always want to be a teacher?
As an undergraduate, I was not completely sure about what I wanted to study so I majored in English and told myself I would eventually figure it out. A few semesters passed and I still had not decided on a career but realized I enjoyed reading and always did well writing essays. It did not take long for me to realize a job I could do that would allow me to continually read and write was teaching English! Teaching English also afforded me the opportunity to help young people become effective readers and writers.
What made you choose to attend UH?
I chose UH primarily because I love Houston — I was born and raised in this city and graduating from UH has made me feel even more connected to my city.
Are there any specific professors who made an impact on your college career?
One of the reasons my experience at UH was exceptional was because of the positive relationships with professors and advisors. One professor, Dr. (Margaret) Hale, not only introduced me to my all-time favorite book but truly modeled how an effective teacher acts in and out of the classroom. Dr. Hale provided choices in her class, was always prepared, made time to develop students professionally outside of class, and made it a point to get to know students past our academics. I took those same traits with me as I began teaching middle school students.
What’s your favorite memory from college?
One of my favorite memories was sitting in health class and wondering why my phone was vibrating nonstop. Eventually, I checked it and learned from several friends and Twitter that Beyoncé was on campus in the library. That was the only day I can recall leaving class early — I made it to the library and saw Beyoncé.
Can you share any obstacles you faced during college or in your career and how you overcame them?
One obstacle I faced during my time as an undergraduate student was learning time management skills. Striving to maintain high grades, holding a leadership role in my fraternity and council, being a musician for different organizations in Houston, and ensuring I spent time with family and friends caused me to sometimes overextend myself. However, I recall attending a training with TCTELA (Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts), where the presenter discussed a technique involving four quadrants that helps maximize time management. I decided to adopt this strategy and use it with fidelity. It improved my life overall. After experiencing this, I understand the importance of purposefully choosing and attending meaningful trainings.
Since graduating, what doors have opened for you? Where are you now?
I have had the opportunity to teach at the campus I attended in middle school, hold various teacher leader roles, teach in Georgia, serve as an instructional specialist supporting numerous campuses, teach through museums, and currently serve as an administrator.
How was the transition to becoming an assistant principal, and what leadership lessons have you learned?
My transition to becoming an assistant principal was rather smooth — partly because of my role right before as an instructional specialist working with several administrators at various schools and because of how the district supported me. Regarding leadership, there are a few lessons I have learned: building positive relationships must be prioritized; if I stop learning, I become an ineffective leader; growth over mastery; clarity before accountability; consistency matters.
How do you stay connected to UH now?
I stay connected to UH now by supporting the goals of the COE alumni working group, planning and attending events, and supporting my fraternity on campus.
Why should other alumni continue to be active?
I would encourage other alumni to be involved to give back to the next generation of professionals who will soon become working professionals with us.
What is the importance of donating to your alma mater, with your time or financially?
I make it a point to give back to my alma mater because of the positive experiences I had while there. I feel confident that UH will continue to provide exceptional academic experiences for learners, preparing them for what’s next.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy traveling, visiting museums, reading, playing piano and socializing with family and friends.
— Compiled by Sneha Joseph
— Courtesy photo