Teaching Hits Home

by Catherine Hogue

August 10, 2023

Posted: August 10, 2023

Teaching Hits Home

by Catherine Hogue

(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2023 ECHO Magazine.) 

Jacobo Alvarez Combines a Love of Baseball and a Passion for Education as He Serves as a Role Model on the Field and in the Classroom

Photo of Coach Jacobo Alvarez

Coach Jacobo Alvarez (’19)

Jacobo Alvarez (’19) laughs about it now, but after graduating from Lancaster Bible College with a degree in Sport Management, he had aspirations of landing a job in sports, specifically something involving baseball. However, more than three years after receiving his diploma, he finds himself teaching math to seventh, eighth and ninth grade students in Lancaster City.

After graduation, while waiting for a job with a local baseball academy to become available, Alvarez decided to bridge the gap by working as a substitute teacher. He started with La Academia Partnership Charter School in January 2020 after the math classroom saw a stretch of teacher turnover. It didn’t take long for him to realize that some of the students were behind, so he grabbed the textbook and really started diving into the teaching. A couple of months into the substitute position, the school offered Alvarez the position permanently.

“It’s funny how life works—I thought I would be in the sports world and now I’m in the classroom, and I love it,” Alvarez said. “Some days are definitely tiring. Some days are not perfect, but the rewarding days are definitely beneficial—they definitely light up your day.”

According to the school’s website, La Academia was “founded in 1998 as a community-centered choice public charter school.” The Title 1 school provides students with a “small and safe learning environment where we build community through a project-based curriculum, cultural learning and dual language focus (English and Spanish).” The school’s mission is to “transform today’s learners into tomorrow’s leaders through innovative instruction, comprehensive scholar supports, cultural competency and work-based learning.”

Alvarez said the majority of the student body is Hispanic or Black, which was one of several reasons he felt led to take the position. “As a Hispanic man myself,” he said, “that was one of the things that compelled me. These are the future leaders of America, these are my people.” As he witnessed teachers coming and going, he felt he “needed to do something about it. That’s why I decided to step in.”

Born in New York but raised in the Dominican Republic, Alvarez moved back to the states following his sophomore year of high school and benefitted greatly from his English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, Mrs. Dobos. He recalls her guidance as “absolutely amazing,” and because of her impact on him, he always had the idea of becoming an ESL teacher tucked away in the back of his mind.

Being able to utilize those language skills now for kids who are going through the same thing he went through as a student is a full-circle moment for Alvarez—one that he views as a blessing. He enjoys the balance of being able to converse back and forth with his students in both Spanish and English, as it provides a common background for him to connect with them.

“I was an ESL student myself, so I kind of feel when they’re frustrated sometimes,” Alvarez said. “I get it. I’ve been there. [Seeing me as] a teacher, it could also give them hope, because they’re like, ‘Hey, there’s someone who’s like me, he speaks like me, he has the same culture as me. If he can do it, I can do it.’”

Alvarez may have discovered a new passion for teaching in the classroom, but his love of sports still runs deep. He was able to merge the two in 2021 when, alongside La Academia’s athletic director, he started the school’s first baseball team. The Leones squad saw 12 boys come out for the team last year—10 of whom had never played baseball before. This spring’s season was the team’s first in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA).

photo of Jacobo Alvarez coaching baseball

Jacobo Alvarez coaches his players at La Academia Partnership Charter School in Lancaster City.

“I knew that for me, baseball was a big impact,” said Alvarez, who was LBC Chargers baseball first baseman for three seasons. “I was OK in the classroom, but baseball was the thing that actually kept me motivated.”

Alvarez has found ways to connect what his students are learning inside the classroom to their efforts on the baseball field. He has found that relating the subjects he’s teaching to a real-world application helps it sink in better for his students. “Math is in our everyday lives,” he said. “For example, we can find the mean by calculating the number of hits per plate appearance, the slugging percentage by calculating the total bases divided by at-bat attempts, the distance between bases and many more practical applications.”

Although Alvarez did not originally plan to build a career in the classroom, he admits that it might have been in his subconscious all along. Looking back at his time at LBC, he tended to gravitate toward volunteer opportunities that involved helping kids, and he enjoyed a Children’s Literature class he took in college.

Alvarez chose to attend LBC because he wanted to surround himself with classmates who had the same values as him—students who wanted to grow closer to Christ. And he has taken that mentality from his role as a student to his role now as a teacher and coach.

“As Christians, we do have the Ultimate Teacher,” Alvarez said, “looking at Christ as the Ultimate Teacher and making sure we are loving, we are compassionate, we are understanding, helping others at all times.”

‘We Are Family’

Those who were baseball fans in the late ‘70s might remember the 1979 World Series Pittsburgh Pirates’ theme song “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. For baseball coach Jacobo Alvarez (’19), teaching and sports is a family affair, too.

Jacobo’s wife, Mekenzie, is a preschool teacher, and Mekenzie’s brothers/Jacobo’s brothers-in-law, Austen (’20) and Tyler (’16) Smith, are both health and physical education teachers at East Pennsboro High School in Enola, Pa. Austen’s wife, Hannah (Thompson ’19) Smith, also teaches health and physical education at East Pennsboro Middle School, and Tyler’s wife, Aly (Kurtz ‘15) Smith is an LBC Early Childhood Education graduate.

Find out the many ways to study Sport Management at LBC | Capital—associate, bachelor’s, master’s and fully online.


Find out the many ways to study Sport Management at LBC | Capital—associate, bachelor’s, master’s and fully online.