Getting to know … Jay Cerny | VailDaily.com
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Getting to know … Jay Cerny

Sarah L. Stewart
Dominique TaylorPrincipal Jay Cerny sits in his old classroom at Eagle County Charter Academy, where he taught for six years before he became principal of the school. As principal, he had the old carpet in the classroom replaced with brand-new, colorful tiles.
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Jay Cerny began his route to becoming principal of the Eagle County Charter Academy fairly typically ” as a teacher. But his route to becoming a teacher was anything but ordinary.

After earning a master’s degree in geology, Cerny spent the first near-decade of his career drilling oil wells for Exxon. He lived in Texas, working on 85 wells from 1986 to 1994, when the birth of his first child inspired a change of heart ” and employment. Long hours at drill sites kept him away from home for two of the first three months of his new son’s life.

“I really was kind of wondering what I was doing with my life to make a difference,” Cerny says. “Oil wells don’t really thank you back.”

Cerny decided to move to Colorado with his family and went back to school for a teaching degree. He landed a job at the Academy, a public school with an alternative teaching philosophy, and worked his way up from teacher to principal in six years.

After seven years at the helm, he isn’t looking back.

What I really liked about the school was just the engagement of the kids. … They were just shooting their hands up in the air, and there was a feeling in the classroom here that ‘I really do want to learn’ and ‘It’s cool to be smart.’ That cool-to-be-smart attitude was something I wasn’t sure I was seeing in other schools.

My own needs. I guess when I was in school, I was always pretty smart, but I was always getting in trouble because I was taking the teachers to task probably more than I needed to. … In hindsight, I realize I was probably upsetting a lot of my more traditional teachers.

I’d like the school to keep its unique charm, but also be better accepted in our community. I guess I was a little surprised how after 14 years there was so much negativity about the school when we were offered some of the money from the district. … I also want to make sure the parents stay really, really involved.

I do miss being in the classroom. … Good teachers are the hardest working people I know. To teach well, it’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.


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