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Coach Jackson reflects on time at Gonzaga

Coach Joe Jackson, physical education teacher, prepares for another day of class. (Photo by Jesse Dolojan)

He climbs up the stairs, entering Forte Hall, soon passing by the Upper Commons. 

“Coach Jackson!” someone shouts. 

Mr. Joe Jackson, physical education teacher, looks to his side and sees some students waving at him. He points at them and gives them a soft chuckle. Glancing at his watch, he realizes that it’s 8 a.m.. He hurries up the stairs and into his office. Shutting the door, he lets out a huge sigh and looks around his room.

He spots a picture of himself with Roman Oben, class of 1992, in front of his desk hanging on the wall. Oben was one of the premier “brain surgeons.” He called all of his students brain surgeons. They shared many conversations together, and one sticks out about late night shows moments before a P.E. class.

“Hey, why are you so tired?” asked Coach Jackson.

“I was staying up late watching TV, Coach,” Oben replied. 

“Which ones did you have to stay up so late for?” Coach Jackson asked.

“All the late night shows, Coach!”

He once again chuckles to himself, remembering him and all the other people he has coached. He thinks back to as recently as four years ago, with some truly special freshmen. 

Any student who has had Coach Jackson knows how his class starts.

“Toes on the line! ” Jackson will shout, waiting for the freshmen putting their toes on the line in the basketball court. 

“Last name!”


“Last name!”




Each class, he would go down the list, getting all of the names and having them do their stretches. During the fall, they would go outside and play football. One group would take it seriously and actually play while the other would just goof off and do nothing. Some kids would just sit in the middle of the field and stare into space… Truly a special class of brain surgeons. 

When he was younger, he was offered a job as a science teacher in Prince George’s County, but he always wanted to teach physical education. At that point, Gonzaga was the only place that offered that. And so far, he was happy with his decision to pursue a career teaching at Gonzaga for the past 42 years of his life. 

He laughs aloud and leans back in his chair, realizing how much fun he has had during all these years as a teacher. But it was time to retire, he could feel it. It was an indescribable feeling, but he knew that it was time for him to rest and spend time with the family. 

Forty years is a long time, but time flies when you’re having fun,” Jackson said aloud.

He always wanted to travel to Cuba, to see what life was like there. But his wife wanted to travel to Europe, which was an investment; they have been saving money for their adventures for a few years. 

One event that was definitely on the list was the Manly Jazz Festival. They both loved jazz music, but she loved gospel music even more. 

Smiling, he gets up. The interview as over; he had to coach his last set of “brain surgeons.” 

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    Pam ValeirasFeb 25, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    Jesse, you captured the essence of Coach Jackson so well I could hear his voice! “Toes on the line!” What an amazing teacher and mentor he has been for so many young men over the years. Gonzaga is losing one of its greats! I wish him all the best in retirement, but I’m sure going to miss him.