Take one look at Mr. Hunter’s bright yellow pants and fishing hat as he walks DePaul students through a lesson, and you may think he always had a blast in school.
Turns out, that wasn’t the case.
“I spent a lot of timeouts in the hallways of my school waiting to hear my principal Mr. Ulibarri’s cowboy boots in the hallway, coming to take me to the office. I come from the era before ADHD was recognized. I was never diagnosed, but I was one of those kids,” he says with a sympathetic twinkle in his eye.
“The first day I stood in front of a class full of kids with special learning needs, I recognized: those kids were me. I understood where they were coming from.”
James Hunter first entered a classroom as a pre-K para back in 2002, a gig that became the catalyst for him earning his teaching degree at UNF. After graduating, a job fair hooked him up with Greenwood, where he taught in the elementary school program until it was phased out. For several years after, he taught online classes.
James initially got into education for the lifestyle as much as the career:
It’s a job that helps people.
Summers are free for travel and time with the family he knew he wanted someday.
Originally from the Pacific Northwest, James spent his twenties traveling to national parks, even learning to fly fish at Yellowstone. He was attracted to Jacksonville’s many rivers, parks, and places to fish. James did a part time stint at DePaul in 2011 and remembers the family atmosphere that made the school stand out among educational institutions in Jacksonville.
“This is an ideal environment—anything less is just a big machine. Education is done a big disservice when it’s run like a machine. A school like this makes all the difference. Everyone from parents to teachers to colleagues are so thankful to be able to help these kids here.”
With his easygoing smile and his ability to talk to almost anyone, James is a natural with kids who are dealing with learning differences and anxiety about school, stepping into a role he once wished educators could fill for him—minus the cowboy boots.
“I feel very fortunate to be here—it’s humbling.” He says. “This is heart work.”
James is married and has two children, a small herd of cats, and about a dozen chickens, and in his free time, he fishes, and creates art and photography.