Alum Jonathan Broadhead’s Teachings Have Impact Beyond the Classroom
By Hayden Bergman
We all have our hobbies—gardening, guitar, giving advice to those who didn’t ask for our opinion—activities we enjoy doing when we have some free time from work, or we feel particularly energetic, or the company is adequate. There is, however, a select group that has aligned their natural talents, purpose, and chosen profession, and, because of this, they are entirely fulfilled. One member of that group is UHD alumnus Jonathan Broadhead, fifth-grade teacher at Roberta W. Rylander Elementary, a diverse school in Katy, Texas, with over 42 languages spoken at home by its students.
Broadhead, a 2006 graduate of UHD’s Interdisciplinary Studies program, knew what he wanted to do before finishing his studies. “I needed a degree to get into the Alternative Certification Program (ACP) to get certified to be a teacher,” he said, adding that he had an “awesome experience” with the College of Public Service (CPS) advisors. “They told me ‘You have enough classes to graduate now, so let’s do that, then enroll you in the ACP program so you can start teaching immediately.’”
Among the knowledge, skills, and dispositions Broadhead gained during his time in the ACP, the most impactful was learning how to remove barriers to a student’s success. “The course content was important,” he said. The most important skill he learned, though, was “knowing how to approach kids who have had zero exposure to [books or literacy concepts] in the home,” as this helps him to address the unique challenges faced by such students. Also, he learned to engage with students' feelings about school and reading, saying that doing so “helps disarm a lot of the negativity” they might feel about their own education. When they’re excited about school, he noted, they flourish.
Once Broadhead began at Rylander, everything fell into place, to the point where he won the school’s Teacher of the Year award not once, but twice. When asked what he’s doing so well to earn top honors, Broadhead doesn’t credit some productivity hack or complex pedagogical method. His answer is, like many of the best things, simple. “It sounds silly and reductive, but I really like working with kids. And I think my students can tell that I’m genuinely happy to see them, that I’m genuinely glad that they’re [in class].”
When asked what his professional goals are, Jonathan shakes his head. “I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I like to show kids that [school] can be an awesome place. Yes, it can be frustrating, it can be a little intimidating, but it can also be a fun, safe place to set yourself up for future success.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.