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The Aquilian

Gentlemen, good morning …

Mr. John Gardner played collegiate soccer at George Mason University. Photo from Mr. John Gardner

Gentlemen, good morning,

A staple catchphrase from one of Gonzaga’s newest additions as a teacher and coach.

We know him for his energy in the classroom, his love of AP U.S. History and his passion on the soccer pitch, but history teacher Mr. John Gardner’s story is one filled with experience and rooted in key values that make him a great fit at Gonzaga. 

Mr. Gardner’s journey started in Dallas, where he grew up with his mom, dad and brother. From the start, sports kept him busy. 

“Growing up, for me, I played a lot of different sports, and I was always out and active because my mom would just say, ‘get out of the house,’” Mr. Gardner said. 

Gardner spent most of his time at the soccer field, which was only 30 seconds from where he lived. There, he grew not only as a soccer player but also in his knowledge of culture. 

“There were men’s leagues that were always up there [referring to the field near his house] from different parts of the world. There was a Chinese group that was up there, Russian and Hispanic,” he said.

While he may have started competing against grown men on the soccer field at the age of 10, Mr. Gardner struggled in other aspects of his life. Mr. Gardner’s size didn’t help him physically, and growing up in Texas, a football-centered state, he did not always get the respect he maybe should have deserved. Additionally, having grown up in a religious household, Mr. Gardner always worried about doing the right thing. He struggled with this internal conflict and turned to soccer as an outlet away from the football culture and influence of others. 

“I always wanted to stay well above the fray, so I always knew that if I could have soccer in my life and it was something that I wanted to pursue, then that could help take me in a lot of different directions,” Mr. Gardner said. “It could help me make friends. It could help me with relationships, and I used that as a big driving factor.”

Soccer did indeed take Mr. Gardner in many different directions, including time overseas playing professionally for Blackburn Rovers. There, he was loaned out to Shelbourne F.C., a team in first division Ireland, where he was able to develop and once again compete against players much bigger than he was. While he was away in Ireland, Blackburn underwent numerous coaching changes, leaving Mr. Gardner on the outside looking in. Once Mr. Gardner’s visa and work permit started giving him challenges, he realized it was time to come home. 

“It just got to a point where I was like, I need to go back to the states and hit a reset button,” Mr. Gardner said. 

Stop one was in New York where Gardner partnered up with New York Red Bulls while also doing consulting business for Major League Soccer. Here, Mr. Gardner said he became tired of all the uncertainty in professional soccer and started to think about his next journey in life. Next stop was back home in Dallas. Mr. Gardner continued his playing career with FC Dallas while working on his coaches badges and working on his teaching certificate, as well. Upon returning to his alma mater, Mr. Gardner was able to see God in this challenging time and found clarity to take him into the next best step in his life. Mr. Gardner turned to the Jesuits and teaching, two settings he knew well having grown up in a religious family and having attended a Jesuit high school. 

“They’ve been a big part of my life as a student, and the Jesuit mission and the ideas and identity is something that’s always been very important to me and so maybe this is kind of what God’s calling [me] to serve at this point,” Mr. Gardner said. 

Upon recognizing God’s call, Gardner applied to Jesuit teaching jobs in Texas where he eventually landed a job at Strake Jesuit. There, he taught and coached at the high school level, continuing to fulfill God’s call to serve but in a different capacity than he was necessarily used to. It wasn’t until his wife got a job at the Academy of Holy Cross as both a coach and a teacher that he recognized that his home in Houston was not God’s next calling. 

“I had to really put a lot of faith and trust that this was where I needed to be,” Mr. Gardner said. 

From Ireland to DC, Mr. Gardner brings his experience and passion to the classroom. Photo by Kyle McHugh / Photo II

After receiving the job at Gonzaga from Mr. Tom Every, Mr. Gardner immediately brought his love and energy to Eye Street. 

“Not only did he bring his soccer expertise to the training pitch; he brought intensity and passion to succeed,” said senior captain Stefan Gately. “Our success is due to the dedication and hard work Coach Gardner brought to the team.”

Senior player Will Ammerman echoed a similar message regarding Mr. Gardner’s love for the game.

“There is no one I’ve seen have more passion for a youth soccer team in my life,” Ammerman said. 

Mr. Kevin Tarpey, math teacher, connected it all together on Mr. Gardner, expressing that what you see on the field is very similar to what you see in the classroom.

“I hear when I teach the same kids he does that he brings this energy to class that is unmatched, similar to what he brings on the soccer pitch,” Mr. Tarpey said. 

Mr. Gardner continues to coach for Gonzaga’s varsity soccer team as an assistant under head coach Scott Waller and teaches an array of AP U.S. History classes as he feels this is God’s calling for him at this time. 


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