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Veteran substitute beloved among school community

Megan Son

Megan Son

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Most students and faculty are familiar with Jack Campbell, the most senior member of the Northgate campus. Campbell is a beloved substitute teacher, a lifelong educator who has regularly stepped into the classroom for absent teachers here over the past five years.

At 82 years old, Campbell has decades of wisdom to offer to young students, who say they love the way Campbell can make class interesting with his unique life experiences and with his kind, effervescent personality.

Senior Nate Greene refers to Campbell as “everybody’s favorite” sub. “He’s a very genuine guy,” Greene said. “He respects everybody. He’s super loved throughout the Northgate community.”

Staff can also attest to Campbell’s excellence as both a teacher and as a person. “Mr. Campbell is one of our favorite substitutes,” remarked administrative assistant Lyndee Moylan. “Students, staff and faculty all adore him. He is someone who the students really respect, and Mr. Campbell also genuinely cares for the students here at Northgate.  I always hear, ‘Hi, Mr. Campbell!’ as he walks through the halls.  I am lucky to know him.”

Campbell made time recently to share more about his background. He was born a twin in 1935 in Kentucky, and raised in Kentucky and Indiana. He attended Pikeville High School in Kentucky, Presbyterian Junior College, and Brigham Young University in Utah, where he majored in secondary instruction with majors in history, geography, science.

Before Campbell became a teacher, he served in the military and in the U. S. Army Security Agency in Korea and the

Philippines. After leaving the military, Campbell gained ample teaching experience at various high schools.

Reflected in Campbell’s extensive teaching experience is his deep passion for teaching and students. In 1964, Campbell taught for two years in Palmdale, California and then relocated to the Concord area where he taught in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District for 30 years.

Campbell expanded upon his teaching at Olympic High School, a continuation school that educates students who are at-risk for failing high school due to credit deficiencies, personal or behavioral challenges that could include drug infractions.

“I had some good days and bad days,” Campbell reflected. “What worries me, not as much here as at Olympic, is the drug problem. Because one time we had to take a kid to the hospital to have his stomach pumped.”

Campbell offers words of wisdom to students. “Avoid drugs like the plague,” Campbell advised. “Some student asked me the other day: what’s good in life? And I said, good health and happiness. If you’ve got that, you got it made. And we all have two choices that are free: the air you breathe is free, and the other free choice is free agency. If you wish to touch a hot stone, you can. But don’t forget there are consequences.”

Campbell says that Northgate is his preferred school for substitute work, and he cites the well behaved and respectful students. However, he has not always taught in such a positive and academic environment, and he reflects on past experiences that include teaching in the Juvenile Hall program in Contra Costa County. He recalled that he has had previous students who have gone to prison.

“There are three kind of laws I taught,” explained Campbell. “There is nature’s law, which we learn to respect, then there’s manmade law, then there is philosophical or religious laws. And if you obey those three laws, you’re a lot happier than those who break the laws.”

Well liked by students, Campbell knows them by name and is clearly popular as students greet him in the hallways.

For his senior research paper, Greene recently had a chance to interview Campbell about his military service. They met at Rocco’s Pizzeria for lunch. “He is really amazing,” Greene said, reflecting on Campbell’s experiences. “He also spends a lot of time subbing for the Special Education Bridges program.”

Campbell has served as a substitute in just about every academic department, including Special Education, P.E. and Music. Greg Brown, director of instrumental music, has high praise for Campbell.

“Mr. Campbell is a pleasure to work with because he is communicative, supports high standards, and encourages the students as they work hard together,” Brown said.

Not without musical experience, Campbell sings annually with a 100-member chorus and full orchestra in a holiday presentation of Handel’s Messiah.

Librarian Rula Kassicieh calls Campbell a true gentleman who treats all with respect. “For the past two years, the campus supervisors along with myself and the office manager have honored Mr. Campbell on his birthday by surprising him with cupcakes and miscellaneous Bronco wear,” reminisced Kassicieh. “We love and appreciate Mr. Campbell. His presence is calming and elicits respect from students and staff alike. He has lived a very interesting and meaningful life and students love to hear his stories.”

And in case anyone’s wondering, his next birthday is on Feb. 3, when he will turn 83. And yes, he said it was alright for the Sentinel to print his age.

“At this age, I’m kind of proud of it,” he remarked with a smile.

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Veteran substitute beloved among school community