Reverbs from the ECHO Chamber — a Q & A with Mr. Jay Cobb

Preston Romanov '20, Editor in Chief

Trinity teacher and coach Mr. Jay Cobb

Another in a continuing series of Q & A interviews with Trinity faculty, staff and administrators.

A bust of President Abraham Lincoln sporting a Trinity football cap sits in the basement of Mr. Jay Cobb’s home. Coach Cobb, who has taught social studies at Trinity since 2014, also serves as defensive coordinator for the Shamrocks football team. He spoke about his interest in history, politics, coaching and teaching.

Q: Why did you become a teacher?

A: When I graduated (from college), I was accepted into law school and was making plans to go, but I told my father that I wanted to try coaching. I promised him no more than five years, and then I’ll get out. I stayed in education, stayed in coaching the entire time. I have been a principal, an athletic director and assistant principal. I’ve always loved teaching.  The thing I enjoy the most about the job is being around young people. You know, you’ve been in my class, I like to cajole, I like to prod a little, I like to kid and everything else because I want school to be fun for them. It makes it fun for us — that’s what kids don’t understand. I get as much from them as I do from anything else.

They have a way of keeping you young; they keep you on your toes. That part of it is fun — seeing them really get a concept and they start to understand. I wish students knew more about economics and our government. We do that as an elective; at least at Trinity we do have that option, but some public high schools won’t even have that option.

Q: Why did you pursue a degree in political science?

A: It came from my mother, to be honest with you. She was heavily involved in politics in Springfield, Ill., where she and my father were raised. At that time, she was tremendously involved and worked in several political campaigns; she worked in Chicago for a while. We were living in Kentucky, and my father was a small-town physician, but we would travel up there and visit quite often. My grandparents lived there. So, I grew up with Abraham Lincoln everywhere. He was and still is a hero of mine in terms of politics and everything else. Politics was always talked in my house. I always had an interest in it because of my parents.

Because that’s what life’s about — life is about the relationships that you have developed through your lifetime. That’s what will live on.”

Q: You have a Rank 1 in educational leadership. What is that?

A: Rank 1 is a certification that is put out by the state, and it means that you have 30 hours above your master’s. Now the only thing that I didn’t do to get a doctorate was a thesis. I’m a football coach, and my plan was poli-sci as a precursor to go to law school.

Q: How do you approach teaching history?

A: To me, and it’s kind of old school, but history is a story, and what always interested me as a student was the background stories of why this individual did what he did. To understand history, you have to understand the circumstances. History is one large story, and it’s always the most interesting subject out there because there’s so many stories within a story, and that’s what I like about it. When I teach it, I try to give background information to students, but then I always try to tie it to modern day because history does repeat itself.

Q: As a political scientist, how do you approach today’s world and politics?

A: I told the ‘16 class when Donald Trump announced for the presidency, and this was in the spring semester, there was a long way to go. But everybody laughed, and I had my chuckles, too. I thought it was going to be really interesting. There’s two things that you have to have in politics in order to win — you have to have money (and) you need name recognition. If you have those two things, even if your name recognition is bad, it’s still good because they know you. When people walk into a voting booth and they see names, so many people in this country don’t have a clue who some of these people are that they are voting for, but they recognized the name Donald Trump. There’s a sense of, yeah, I know this guy. And so that is what was going to be really interesting. Everybody was dismissing him, but that that’s what I was trying to tell the class — to not dismiss any candidate running for president.

Q: What is the best part about teaching history?

A: There’s a lot of interaction between your students because you’re discussing. Then you can always get into the political side of it; you can get into the social issues, and that’s what makes it interesting. I always tell my students on the first day of school: I want you to have opinions and you need to be civil. I teach sophomores, and they are still forming those ideas. You’re looking to the future and realizing that I’m going to be in that world. That was the thing about being raised talking about these types of issues all the time.

Q: Is there anybody who motivates or inspires you?

A: Abraham Lincoln was always my childhood hero. As a matter of fact, my parents, being from Springfield, they bought me this little bust of Lincoln’s head. If you go to my house now down in my little man cave in the basement, I got this Lincoln head with a Trinity football hat on it. But no, my father was my hero growing up. He inspired me athletically, and he also did politically in a lot of ways. He was civic-minded, very involved in the community. He was a guy that I looked up to; he was a big influence in our family.

Q: How has the world changed since getting your degree in poli-sci?

A: Civility has changed. That’s the way the world has worked. You can be trying to tear down a man completely, and they would expect you to be civil. Civility is lost, and the big question is how do we get it back? Politics has always been a rough-and-tumble business — it’s an ugly business — that’s the thing I don’t like about it. I don’t know how we get it back, but it’s got to someway somehow.

Q: What is the legacy you want to leave behind?

A: You know the legacy for teachers and educators comes in the weirdest and great ways. Today on email — I’m not a Facebook guy, not an Instagram or Twitter guy — but my wife is, and she will get people to reach out to me that I haven’t heard from in 10 or 15 years, whether it’s a player or student. They’ll say I wanted to catch up, I wanted to say you had a real impact on me when I was in school, I really liked your class and still remember some of the discussions. I think that’s what every teacher wants.

I want school to be fun for my students, to get your work done and learn. I’m hoping for people to look back and say that he cared and had a passion about it. I’m hoping that’s what people can say. Like today, I got an email and a text from a young man I coached years ago — he just got his first head coaching job at Fort Campbell, Ky., and so he has been reaching out to me for about the last month with questions. Today he’s hit me up with three or four. He opened that connection back up. Because that’s what life’s about — life is about the relationships that you have developed through your lifetime. That’s what will live on.