Phoenixville EA member John Odell is in his second successful career.
The eighth-grade science teacher studied meteorology at the University of Oklahoma but felt a calling to serve during the time of the Vietnam War. He joined ROTC with plans to stay in the military for two years. That turned into a 24-year career with the Army.
As he approached the end of his military service, he had decisions to make about his future. At the time, his sons were both in middle school in the Great Valley School District, Chester County.
“I remember going to all the parent-teacher conferences, and both of my sons had special needs, and I was really impressed by the administration, the school counselors, and all of the teachers,” he said.
Odell received his master of science degree in systems management from the University of Southern California in 1977 and taught at Temple University as a visiting professor during his time in the military in the late 1970s and early 1980s. That, coupled with his experience with his sons’ school, cemented his future – he wanted to work with children.
He believes his military service prepared him well for the teaching profession. Odell was constantly teaching people – how to use equipment, how to train, how to work together. He had drafted training plans that were very similar to lesson plans. He felt responsible for the soldiers in his charge, just as he now feels responsible for his students and their success.
“I was in the military; I was serving my country. Now I’m serving my community,” Odell said. “It’s just a continuation of something I feel called to do – to serve.”
After completing his Pennsylvania Teaching Certificate in science and environmental education at West Chester University in 1998, he accepted a full-time teaching position in the Phoenixville School District, Chester County, and immediately felt the impact of PSEA.
“I started teaching in Phoenixville in August of 1999 and in October of 1999 we were out on a 40-day strike,” Odell said. “That really showed me the importance of having the union. I recognized the need to be together as a unit. You’re much stronger as a group than as an individual.”
Odell has served as vice president of his local for a decade and is the chair of the Republican caucus for PSEA. He’s also been a member of the ACE program – Advocates for Children and Education – since it began in 2005.