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Through authenticity and humor, biology teacher inspires passion among students
May 9, 2023
Seven dead birds rest on a countertop in the front of the plant-filled oasis that is the biology classroom, a scrap of muslin separating their corpses from the surface. It’s the day of the body plan test, and nervous ninth-grade chatter fills the space around the birds.
A cheerful looking, dimpled man with glasses and a Brandon Johnson T-shirt bustles around the room, passing out mint-colored test packets. A large, intricate image of a cockroach is tattooed across his right forearm.
He says his next words with unbridled enthusiasm — and just a hint of sarcasm:
“There is extra credit, because that’s how big of a heart I have.”
If the students in Daniel Bobo-Jones’ biology classroom were asked to think of what first comes to mind about their sunny science teacher, the answers might vary — but chances are, every one of them would say something about either fountain pens, cockroaches, or his natural and ingrained passion for his subject.
“I was always the kid that, if I were in trouble, and I was sent outside, then I found insects to play with,” Mr. Bobo-Jones said. “One time my mom was gonna try out time-outs. So I had to sit on the couch, and I came back to her with a report of how many orange threads, how many yellow threads, how many brown threads were in the couch. So, that science-y stuff was already kind of in me.”
Something that possibly all of his students — past or present — can agree on is the fact that having Mr. Bobo-Jones as your biology teacher automatically builds a love not only for being in his classroom, but for biology itself.
Ninth grader Grover Henderson, like many of his classmates, thinks part of the reason Mr. Bobo-Jones’ class is so enjoyable is his sense of humor.
“He’s full of jokes, his teaching style is full of jokes,” Grover said. “He just makes everything fun.”
Additionally, many of Mr. Bobo-Jones’ students will mention his easy authenticity in the classroom, which is sometimes connected to his aforementioned comedic abilities. He estimates that around 99% of his undiluted energetic personality is on display to his students during a normal class period.
“You don’t normally get to see when I’m really tired and my natural Chicago accent comes out,” Mr. Bobo-Jones said with a laugh, “’Cause I’m very sensitive about it. It’s almost like the Snoopy Halloween Special, when Snoopy accidentally howls and covers his mouth like ‘Oh crap, that got out.’”
U-High’s science department is considered a remarkably close-knit circle of teachers who can usually be found chatting in the science office, sometimes eating lunch together. Elizabeth Hubin, a biology teacher who worked closely with Mr. Bobo-Jones for several months following the coronavirus pandemic, emphasizes his kind and welcoming attitude toward this group of teachers as well as his students.
“I really do see Jones as someone who I can walk downstairs into his classroom and always feel like he will be a supportive friend,” Dr. Hubin said. “So of course when I came to Lab six years ago, I really appreciated the openness and welcomingness.”
Mr. Bobo-Jones considers his relationship with his science colleagues to be an adventure, a sort of inside joke they all share.
“When Dr. Hubin came in for the first time and did a lesson, it was as if she’d always been here, and she’d been part of our biological adventure forever and ever and ever,” Mr. Bobo-Jones said.
Apart from his life at school, Mr. Bobo-Jones spends most of his time digging in the dirt, so to speak. Apt for a biology teacher, he feels most comfortable in a natural setting, watching things grow and flourish — like his students.
“Planting things, getting the garden up and running, getting it ready to be up and running…” He said. “That’s what my waking hours are.”
Bobo-Jones shares favorite fountain pens
Along with inspiring others with his passion for science, Mr. Bobo-Jones is an avid collector of fountain pens, inks and papers. His collection spans many brands and styles of pens, and this video highlights five of them.
For those who wish to begin exploring fountain pens, Mr. Bobo-Jones recommends the Platinum Plaisir or Pilot Metropolitan, both of which are relatively inexpensive while remaining high-quality.
He gets many of his pens at Atlas Stationers, and is there so often that he was invited to be an associate, and his code of “DANIEL10” gives 10% off a purchase.
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