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TEACH FOR AMERICA PROFILE: JOE LOFTUS
With a degree in Business Management and a personable demeanor that makes him instantly relatable and trustworthy, California native and longtime Pueblo resident Joe Loftus was a natural for the world of business and sales.
As a corporate trainer and insurance executive, Mr. Loftus experienced financial success and industry accolades, but wanted more.
Namely, personal fulfillment and a sense of making a genuine difference in the world.
As a corporate trainer, Mr. Loftus was able to dip his toes into the educational arena. The fact that his wife, Pearl, is a teacher at Irving Elementary, also piqued his interest in the field.
“There are many days my wife comes home pretty excited about the things she’s accomplished at school,” Mr. Loftus said. “For the last 20 years, I've been selling insurance, which doesn’t necessarily offer you that sense of accomplishment, or a sense of making a difference in someone’s life.
“So I really wanted to do something more fulfilling and meaningful in the 5 or 10 years I have before I retire.”
With encouragement from his wife, Mr. Loftus began to explore the alternative teacher licensing opportunities offered through Teach for America.
“I went to junior college right out of high school and then went to work for 10 years,” Mr. Loftus explained. “Then I went back and got my bachelor's degree. So that didn’t necessarily qualify me to be a teacher. But my wife told me about teachers she had worked with who had gone through Teach for America, and they are great teachers.
“So I did some research on the alternative licensing program.”
That internet search was conducted on March 20 of this year: only days before the deadline to apply for the TFA alternative licensing program.
“So I kind of halfheartedly applied and thought, ‘Well, if it's meant to be, it'll work out,’” Mr. Loftus said.
Fortunately, it was meant to be.
This week, Mr. Loftus officially began the next – and what will surely be the most rewarding – phase of his working life: that of a fourth-grade teacher at Franklin School of Innovation.
It’s that Belmont school that educated his children and also employed his wife for years.
“As someone who loves kids, it’s a personal decision and it's a commitment,” Mr. Loftus said of entering education at this point in his life. “I've been in our community for years, and I've seen some of the struggles our kids face.
“And to be honest, it is hard, and I feel borderline overwhelmed sometimes. But the support I've gotten from everybody at this school has been incredible. So, yes, there's a lot, but I don't think you need to be overwhelmed or intimidated by it because of the tremendous amount of support.”
Mr. Loftus also has a passionate and inspirational champion in his wife.
“One of the great things about my wife is that she really provides a lot of guidance and is super supportive,” Mr. Loftus said. “And I really need her to be supportive because this is a pretty big change, going from insurance to education.
“But I know she's super happy that I'm doing this. She knew there was still time in my life to go do something else, and now she sees the excitement and the enthusiasm that comes with doing something new.
“Not only something new, but something that will allow me to contribute to the community a little bit: especially in the lives of those students who may need a little extra help and attention.”
When he was interviewed for the fourth-grade position at Franklin by Principal Dana DiTomasso-Junkman, she quickly discovered the depth of Mr. Loftus’ passion for education.
“He’s too humble to tell you this, but Joe had quit his job before he even knew he was going to be hired here,” Principal DiTomasso-Junkman said. “That says a lot about his character.”
As someone with the best interests – and futures – of children in mind, Mr. Loftus is in fine company in District 60 and at Franklin.
“Everybody I've worked with at District Administration, the school's administration and Teach for America – as well as the other teachers at Franklin – is very, very committed to kids’ education. So although I feel a little anxious, I also feel like I am prepared. And if I if I do struggle, I know there's a lot of help for me.”
Although he was born in California and graduated from high school in Trinidad -- where he was a standout athlete -- Mr. Loftus is Steel City through and through.
“We raised our family in Pueblo, so I am very fond of the community: its diversity and its history,” he said. “It was a wonderful city for my family, and now that I have two young grandchildren enrolled in the District, I want to do all I can to help ensure its success.
“I believe all of the people with whom I've worked are truly committed to student success, and I am optimistic for our community's future. I feel this is a good stage in my life to really try something else: something that's a little more meaningful, a little more supportive of our community.
“And when I am done, hopefully, I can look back and say, ‘I'm glad I did that, and hopefully I helped someone out.’”
In the truest sense of the word, Joe Loftus is a "Gentle Giant."