At 84, lifelong educator still makes a difference

John Lenes explains a math problem to students in a College Success Academy class, which prepares students to take college-level math and English. (Photo: College of the Mainland)

John Lenes has flown in fighter jets, worked as a logger and taught in prisons, but for the past 24 years he has found home at Texas’ College of the Mainland (COM) 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,” Loop said. “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 inclusion aide.

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

A mix of experiences

Lenes teaches COM’s 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,” Lenes said.

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 one inmate before pass,” Lenes said.

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,” Lenes said.

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.

He adds that has no plans to retire (again).

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

About the Author

Rebecca Sauer
is the communications coordinator at College of the Mainland in Texas.