Nurturing students with a smile
For Inza R. Wood Middle School wellness teacher Jordan Scoggins, 2018 is the year of the pizza.
So Scoggins scoured the Portland pizza scene with his daughter and determined that Baby Doll Pizza is the best of the bunch. To learn all he could about his newfound hobby, he then earned a job at Baby Doll and works there every Sunday.
By the end of the year, he hopes to serve up the perfect pie to his wife and kids. Another year, he completed four marathons. Last year, he bought a house.
But the year of the ice cream was the year that catalyzed his nomination for the Wilsonville Rotary First Citizen Award — which is given annually to an integral community leader.
A few years ago, Scoggins founded Jr. Scoop — a nonprofit ice cream company operated by middle school students. The after-school group sells ice cream at dozens of events and to members across the Wilsonville community. Scoggins also serves as director.
Donna Bane, who nominated Scoggins for the award, has been impressed with Scoggins' leadership and believes the Jr. Scoop program provides invaluable experience for adolescents.
"He's an amazingly energetic guy," Bane said. "He's a prime example of an adult working with youth and truly teaching them how to mature, how to thrive in a community sense as well as a business sense — all the while learning how to create a really good product."
Scoggins was awestruck when he first learned that he is one of four nominees for the First Citizen award.
"I was surprised," he said "What was really funny was, I got the email and honestly I kind of just stared at it for a while. I was like, 'Really?'"
In a serendipitous decision, during Scoggins' year of the ice cream, former Inza R. Wood Principal Barb Soisson required teachers to determine subjects for 30-minute inter-grade advisory classes that would jumpstart each school day.
A coworker asked Scoggins what he was going to teach.
He says he replied: "We'll make ice cream."
Though fellow teachers thought she would never go for the idea, Soisson liked it.
And the group has since ballooned from an abbreviated school activity into a full-fledged operation. They work in the Boones Ferry Primary School kitchen, produce various flavors such as Dirt, which has a Ghirardelli milk chocolate base with homemade brownie chunks and a salted caramel swirl, and roasted strawberry and buttermilk. Jr. Scoop also includes a marketing team, a design team and a finance team. Prospective workers interview for positions and staff members can be fired if they don't take their job seriously.
"These kids are the kids you want to hire. They've already been trained, really trained," Scoggins said.
Before becoming a teacher, Scoggins ran a catering company in Seattle. He started the business selling food out of a cart at Seattle Mariners and Seahawks games and eventually catered weddings and business events for companies like Boeing and Microsoft.
"I have an entrepreneur's heart. I've always been interested in business," he said.
And Scoggins has imparted this business spirit onto his students.
Bane was both flabbergasted and impressed when a student told her he was working on calculating the company's profit margin. And if students are not wearing proper attire in the kitchen or at community events, they have to go home.
"He tells you to get something done and you get it done. He's caring and understanding. But in a business, if you don't get something done there's consequences," Jr. Scoop President and seventh grader Carson Puppo said.
Yet Puppo says Scoggins does not micromanage the process.
"He never does it for me. He shows me the right way to do it," he said.
And the kids also work with dangerous items such as molten sugar and sharp knives. But Scoggins has helped develop a communication strategy in which workers loudly inform their peers when they're wielding a dangerous object across the kitchen.
"They're constantly being trained on how to communicate in the kitchen," Scoggins said. "In the kitchen, I'm even more focused because whereas in the classroom, yeah you can get hurt but the likelihood of getting hurt is not that high. Hot sugar's job is to burn. And if you get it on you, you can't wipe it off. If you wipe it off it will smear and burn even more."
Scoggins believes one of the problems with modern schooling is that kids don't learn enough about important life skills such as cooking, forming quality relationships, communicating effectively and how to manage money. The Jr. Scoop program helps rectify some of these deficiencies, he says.
"We don't give these kids credit in how much they can actually do," Scoggins said. "The biggest problem we have with kids these days is that we don't give them enough responsibility. There's a reason why they're infatuated with video games and YouTube and what have you. They're looking to pass time. They don't have anything to do."
Scoggins is aware of the cognitive dissonance associated with his roles as wellness teacher and director of a nonprofit ice cream company but says everything, including sweets, is good in moderation. He also hopes to find a bigger workspace for the kids that would also include a space
for nutrition and cooking classes.
Scoggins' mom was a high school teacher and, though his wellness class is less traditional than her current affairs class, he learned from her that school should not only be informative but also entertaining.
Sometimes they talk about current events and their daily lives. And other times, they jam out on the guitar.
"I try to be funny and relate to them. You'd be surprised how many kids are attuned with what's going on in the world," Scoggins said.
Scoggins spends his days working at school for eight-plus hours and then a couple hours after school working with Jr. Scoop. He also coaches his kids' sports teams — not to mention his shifts at Baby Doll Pizza. By the end of the year, he hopes to perfect five red sauce pies and five white sauce pies as well as three salads.
For Scoggins, learning is the elixir of life.
"It's like I tell my kids: I'm 51 years old. I'm going to be here only a certain amount of time and I want to know as many things as I possibly can. I hate a day going by where I don't learn something new or I don't experience something," he said.
Puppo says Scoggins will spend time outside of school and Jr. Scoop hours helping him craft the perfect professional email or or utilize a particular management approach.
He's learned a lot under Scoggins' tutelage.
"It'll be 8 at night. I'll go to his house and we'll talk for an hour about things 'I need to do better as a president, communication, showing energy, showing growth.' He's given me a lot of chances to show what I can do," Puppo said.
And Puppo admires Scoggins' positive attitude and temperament.
"He works so hard, loves what he does, loves every second of it and shows up with a smile every day," he said.