Recent graduate Jax Keene, from Swartz Creek, Michigan, had a college experience unlike any other. Jax, who majored in exercise science, became an adjunct professor at Olivet College during her junior and senior years.
During the spring of her first year in 2019, Jax found herself in the office of her Health and Human Performance professor and advisor Nick Juday to talk about courses for the following year. While scrolling through the academic catalog, Jax noticed that a karate course was listed. “Curiosity got the best of me,” Jax said. “I asked who the professor was because I thought it would be fun to compare training styles and what not.” Professor Juday replied there was no instructor currently. As a joke, Jax suggested that she could teach the course since she is a certified instructor; much to her surprise, Professor Juday took her seriously.
What was once a comment Jax thought had been forgotten came full circle the fall of the following year. Professor Juday approached Jax one morning, asking if she could send in her certification to begin the process of her teaching the course. Shocked by this, Jax says she “didn’t think he was serious, but soon enough, he was asking me to put together a presentation of sorts to present the idea of the class to the director of the HHP department.” What began as a pitch for the karate course became an idea to turn it into a self-defense course catered towards women, who would benefit most from a class taught by Jax, although it is open to all students.
Jax started training in the Tang Soo Do style of karate when she was only five years old. In 2018, she reached 4th-degree black belt, making her a Sa Bom Nim; which translates to “master” and “certified instructor.” This rank granted Jax the ability to teach, and the style of karate she uses is primarily self-defense based, which worked well for her to teach this course.
“We planned that after spring break (2020), we’d figure out the last couple details and get it into the class schedule lists so people could sign up,” Jax said. “Then COVID hit, and we were all sent home. I thought the class idea would be forgotten, but the HHP department chair was emailing me soon asking what days and times I could teach, how many students I wanted, and for me to make a flyer that he could send to other departments. Before I knew it, the class was live and open to 12 students, and I couldn’t have been more excited.” Jax was extremely thorough throughout this process, spending much of her summer creating a syllabus, various outlines, and restructuring what she wanted to teach five different times.
Jax chose a maximum of 12 students for her class, as it was an amount she knew she could both handle teaching and correcting on her own. From Fall 2020 to Spring 2022, Jax has taught 38 students, 25 of them being female. “Each semester was a learning curve because every class was different,” Jax said. “After every semester, I learned something new, whether that was what to teach or not to teach, or how to teach something in a better way.”
At Olivet College, most one-credit classes meet once a week for the allotted one-hour, 20-minute time slot. Jax decided for her self-defense course to do a twice-a-week course for 45 minutes each session. “I did this so that the students could learn something one day, have time to practice, and have it stick in their brains the next class,” Jax said. “They had exams and assignments – mostly practicing at home – just like any other class and schedules were blocked out like a normal three-credit class was. The time block that we didn’t use in our 45 minutes of training was used to set up and put away mats and change. I scheduled the class around my class schedule and only taught one class per semester.”
“This never would’ve been possible if it wasn’t for Olivet College and the relationships I made here. This opportunity would not have presented itself if I’d gone to a larger school. Professors Nick Juday, Kevin Rabinau, KayDee Perry and Nancy VanHoozier have been a huge help to me,” Jax said. “Professor Juday presented the idea, Professor Rabinau made it possible, and Professor VanHoozier helped me figure some things out on the “teacher side” of things. Professor Perry helped me the most because she helped me set up my BlackBoard page, helped me format my grade book and helped me with any issues I had. I owe a lot to these individuals, and I am forever grateful for this opportunity.”
Jax Keene graduated in May with a degree in exercise science and is pursuing a career as a physical therapist. She will also be testing for her 5th-degree black belt next year.
Learn more about Olivet College by contacting the Office of Admission at 800-456-7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This feature was written by senior Chad Enwright, Marketing and Multi-Media Student Associate. He is the Gillette Student Village apartment manager, member of the football team, president of Phi Beta Lambda and a business administration major who aspires to invent and operate his own high-tech, home security and automation business.