KOKOMO, Ind. —When Sawyer Reynolds finished his service in the U.S. Army, he knew his next step was a job where he could make a difference in the community.
His plan to go into law enforcement was derailed by an injury, so he started thinking about other options, considering how a teacher could reach young people and change lives for the better.
“I thought about where I could make a difference and try to create good people before they got into trouble with law enforcement, and decided to go into education,” he said. “The critical thinking and analysis I did in the Army are important skills that transfer into this field, and I can help kids develop those skills in high school, which will serve them well in the future.”
Reynolds graduated from Indiana University Kokomo in December 2021 with dual degrees in secondary education and history and political science. His student teaching assignment at Kokomo High School during the fall semester led to a permanent substitute teacher job for this school year, and he will transition into a job at Central International Middle School in Kokomo this fall.
Working with the students is the best part of the job.
“I enjoy having time to build relationships with them,” he said. “One of the things I appreciated about my teachers was, they were there for me when I didn’t have anyone to be there for me. Being able to support my students as they’re trying to become the best version of themselves is my favorite thing about it.”
In addition to teaching, Reynolds has been a mentor for the TechnoKats robotics team. He hopes to coach football and wrestling in the future.
Originally from Angola, Reynolds served as a human intelligence collector in the Army from 2012 to 2016, with stints in Japan and Korea. After returning to the U.S., his wife Kaitlyn’s job teaching science at Kokomo High School brought him here.
He noted that Kaitlyn’s classroom was right across the hall from his during student and substitute teaching.
“That’s been pretty awesome,” he said. “If I have questions about how to make a lesson better, or if I run into a technology issue, I can run across the hall for help.”
His military benefits allowed him to enroll at IU Kokomo when he decided to become a high school teacher. His interest in history, along with influence from his history teachers, led him to teach that subject area. His classes have been especially interested in Cold War history, as he’s led discussion relating past events to current events.
“I’ve had huge buy-in from students because of what’s going on with Russia and Ukraine right now,” he said. “We can make history relevant by tying it in with what they see happening right now.”
Christina Romero-Ivanova, assistant professor of education, said his breadth of historic knowledge allows him to make those connections.
“He was very good at discussing history, with excellent depth of knowledge,” she said. “He also cares deeply about students getting the right historical information and does his best to alleviate any tendencies towards false narratives.”