Jeff Maveus had spent his professional years at DeKalb Genetics, feeling secure and content in his position with the Corporate Services Department.
That changed when Monsanto purchased the company in 1998. “I knew it was just a matter of time before I wasn’t going to have a job,” says Maveus, who lives in Cortland.
Pondering his next step, he discovered that it no longer lies in corporate America but in a school gymnasium.
“I had played a lot of sports in high school. Coaching was something I had a passion for. My mom had a daycare for 30 years, and I had always been around kids. I had worked at camps,” he says. “I wanted to teach.”
Enrolling in the NIU Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, Maveus earned his bachelor of science degree in physical education (PE) in the fall of 2005. For the last 13 years, he has taught PE – the first eight years of those in an elementary school, and for the last five years, to sixth- through eighth-graders at Harter Middle School in Kaneland.
Now his son, Tyler, is following in those footsteps.
“My dad, for sure, was one of my biggest inspirations,” says Tyler, a 19-year-old sophomore at NIU who was a four-sport athlete at Sycamore High School.
“Hearing him come home and talk about how it’s a rewarding profession, and all the fun he has at work, just really made me want to get into it,” he adds. “I like the environment. I like the atmosphere of always being active. I like being able to have fun with kids, to help them learn and grow. I like the overall satisfaction of helping others.”
Dad understands why.
“What I love about teaching PE in middle school is that I love that age,” Jeff says. “The kids are learning how to lead healthier lifestyles and to make some good decisions in their lives. I’m teaching them about lifelong fitness; a lot of kids think that lifelong fitness is just a sport. They don’t know that more is involved, and I like to provide that knowledge, to be that role model.”
Sure enough, Tyler is also aiming toward a career in a middle school.
“At that point in their lives, they’re starting to become more independent, but it’s not like high school when they’re starting to not participate as much,” he says. “Middle school can be a real rough experience for some kids, and I want to be sure to help them. I really enjoyed PE growing up – I had good experiences – and I want to make sure I give students that same experience. I want to be a role model, and someone my students can look up to.”
Being in the same profession – and, for now, the same house – is also providing a new camaraderie between the two.
Following an early clinical experience at DeKalb’s Huntley Middle School last semester, and part of a current assessment-related clinical at Brooks Elementary School, Tyler is getting his feet wet.
Naturally, he’s got questions and observations.
“It’s just nice to have my dad in my back pocket as a resource,” Tyler says, “like if I need help with an assignment late at night, he’s there. I can run warmup ideas by him, things to change, things to do differently, things that worked well, things I should be doing.
“My wife is just loving this. She thinks it’s great that we sit there and compare notes,” Jeff says.
Like Tyler, he enjoys the family room conversations.
“It’s really cool to not only talk to him about where the program is at NIU – it’s changed since I was there – but it’s really cool to have your son, when you’re watching a basketball game at night, turn to you and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a couple warmups I’d like to run past you,’ ” he says.
“We talk about professors. We talk about how you bounce ideas off of other teachers, that you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel, that that’s how you get better,” he adds. “Tyler wants to be the best. It’s just fun.”
Both offer high praise for the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.
“One of the top programs in the nation!” Jeff exclaims. “I’m so thankful that I went through the PE department at NIU. Every step NIU had through the progression was phenomenal – early childhood, clinicals, student-teaching – and the best experience I could ever have. It was all the classes I needed, and 10 years later, something I never thought I would use, I’m using now.”
KNPE professors – he singles out Connie Fox, Clersida and Luis Garcia, and Jenny Parker – were motivational and committed to teaching “the do’s and don’ts.”
Tyler, who starts student-teaching in the fall of 2019, is enjoying KNPE’s cohort model.
“We move through the program together, which is really nice because I can grow and become good friends with the other students,” he says. “Also, I’m learning that you can only be so prepared from the classroom. NIU does a really good job of immersing us in the schools and getting us that experience. There’s no better way to learn than experience, and you can only follow the book so much when you’re out in the field.”
Perhaps their strongest endorsement, however, comes from Jeff’s perpetual welcome mat for NIU student-teachers in his gymnasium.
“I had two cooperating teachers who were phenomenal. They really helped me to finish that final step I had to take, and it’s not an easy step. There are a lot of things you have to learn while you’re student-teaching,” he says. “I remember how important it was to me to have someone good to work with – someone to learn from – and I want to be that person. That’s definitely what I’m here for.”