“Wildman” James Patsalides Went Into Wilderness, Came Back a Teacher
It took a very long walk in the woods for James Patsalides to realize the direction he wanted his career to take. An Englishman, James came to the United States after falling in love and getting married to an American. He and his wife started a family, and he had a successful career in the business world.
Yet something in his professional life was missing. He realized he wanted to teach, but was unsure whether to seek a full-time career change and what level he wanted to instruct. So James went to the Rocky Mountains of Montana and took a hike – a very long hike full of run-ins with bears, moose, and the like. And, when he returned, he knew what he wanted to do.
“My wilderness adventure really set my mind in a different direction; I knew what I had to do and I knew that it was okay to make a change,” James said.
He began as an adjunct computer literacy instructor at Goodwin College and other places, along with teaching SAT prep through the Princeton Review. Most of his early teaching experience was with private business schools, where students were typically either polished professionals and executives or their children.
Goodwin, however, presented him with a different type of student. Here, he found students with profound life experiences and significant personal challenges – and the opportunity to make a real difference.
“These learners might need more individual help, but many have had challenging experiences in their own lives, are balancing work and family, and yet they maintain an amazing sense of self and a desire to improve their position in society. My students inspire me every day!” James said.
Students notice his commitment. In a recent interview, criminal justice student Lajuane McCray Jr. named Patsalides as his favorite instructor.
“He takes it step by step,” McCray said. “He gives us all equal time, and makes sure we all get it.”
Now, as a full-time professor, James is looking to help others realize the power of the outdoors by taking learners “beyond walls, beyond Facebook, and beyond our built environment into places where they can truly be human beings.”
He recently established the Goodwin College Outdoors Club and is excited over the prospect of taking students out onto the trails throughout the region, including here on Goodwin’s land. The leadership and observation skills students learn through challenging outdoor activities transfer well into their educational and personal lives, he said, and could really be a catalyst to help create a bridge between the urban environment and the wilderness.
“We should not be afraid of the outdoors – it’s everyone’s domain. We just have to learn the skills and take some chances – getting to know the wilderness changed my life and I think it can change others too.” James said.
James now teaches Computer Literacy courses at Goodwin College and is enrolled in a doctoral program in Sustainability Education. He loves to welcome new students into his courses and into the Goodwin College Outdoors Club. Email him at email@example.com if you’d like to know more about getting out into the wilderness.