Return to Headlines

Hand Enjoys Each Day After 25 Years in Alternative Education

After 25 years of teaching alternative education at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, teacher John Hand likes the fact that no two days are the same.

Working with middle school and high school students for more than two decades, Hand said the Compass Program provides the perfect environment for the students he teaches.

“This setting for them has just been great,” he said. “Some of the kids find alternative education as the perfect place to reset and get back on track.”

Hand, who teaches science and health, received a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master’s degree in The Science of Teaching from SUNY Potsdam, and a CAS in Administration from SUNY Cortland. Those experiences led to quite the interview process at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES 25 years ago.

“It’s a great story! So, when I came for my interview and was waiting for my turn, the secretaries were having trouble with a new mail merge on Microsoft Word,” he said. “So, I sat at the secretary’s desk and helped her mail merge some spreadsheets. And the principal at the time, Bill Speck, came out to get me. He said, ‘When you’re done, come on in!’” After a few rounds of interviews, the job was offered to Hand.

So, with more than 25 years of teaching experience, what keeps Hand inspired each day?

“I just enjoy the atmosphere here. I enjoy coming in and watching the kids get a lot of it,” Hand said. “Just trying to find ways to keep it fun. Even if it’s rearranging my room each week.”

Hand said the advice he would give to a first-year staff member would be to remain as organized as possible.

“I know where things are, and I don’t have to search too long for something. Over the years, that has really paid off quite a lot,” he said. “And use the copy service when you need to. That helps a lot. Especially if you have time to prepare. Just work on getting your copies done and have them organized.”

Compass Principal Drew Yakawiak had the following to say regarding Hand’s importance to the Compass Program: “John is a dedicated professional who has made a difference in the lives of many students and continues to be a role model for all who attend the Compass Program.”

Outside of work, Hand enjoys spending time with his wife, three children, a son-in-law, his almost three-year-old grandson, and playing guitar. Hand also enjoys giving back to the community.

“I’m just out trying to do good things whenever I can,” Hand said.