At 84, lifelong educator still making a difference

John Lenes teaches an adult education math class.

John Lenes has flown in fighter jets, worked as a logger and taught in prisons, but for past 24 years he has found home at College of the Mainland preparing students for college.

Lenes, who describes himself as 84 ½, helps students pass college placement tests or earn a high school equivalency diploma to prepare for college classes and workforce training.

Daffany Loop, of Texas City, is one student for whom Lenes made a difference.

“If I needed to come in early or stay late, he’d work with me. I was out of school for years. I was really nervous about coming back,” said Loop. “He’s a great instructor. It’s very easy to grow attached to him the way he teaches and the way he works with you.”

Loop earned her GED, and after passing certification tests, she now works with Blocker Middle School as an inclusion aide.

“Mr. Lenes is someone I’d never forget,” said Loop.

Lenes teaches COM College Success Academy students. He covers English, reading and math from first grade addition to fifth grade decimals all the way to pre-algebra – and he does it in eight weeks.

“My strategy is I do it step by step,” said Lenes.

He’s dedicated to helping students prepare for college or the workforce.

“Students enjoy his classes. They are drawn to him,” said Roger Mora, COM career navigator. “He has one of the highest attendance rates. He is very strict and very good. People say that they can understand math the way he teaches math.”

Lenes previously taught 11 years in Texas Department of Corrections Windham School.

“I had seven inmates get GEDs, and they never had an inmate pass before,” said Lenes.

He also served in the U.S. Air Force, Reserves and Texas Air National Guard. He was a weapons systems officer for F-101 Voodoo fighter jets and navigator for transports and logged 4,420 hours flying.

“It’s exhilarating. I had the time of my life flying at super-sonic speeds around the world,” said Lenes.

Another high-adrenaline job he held was working as a logger during his summers in college.

How do his military and other experiences help students?

“I’m very disciplined. I give homework and it instills discipline in them,” said Lenes.

“The reward is in seeing the smiles on their faces when they pass a test. Their eyes are sparkling. They have accomplished something they never thought they would. Their whole attitude changes. They can get into college or get a job.”

He has no plans to retire (again).

“All my friends say, ‘I wish I had something to do like you do,’” said Lenes. “I’d rather be active and help people out.”

To learn more about the COM Adult Education Program, which helps students learn English, train for a career or earn a high school equivalency diploma, visit www.com.edu/adulted.

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