Class act

Jim Detmer

Jim Detmer ’75

Science and social studies special education teacher

KAPPA III, Bronx, N.Y.

When I left Chicago to attend Colgate in 1971, I had full intentions of being a teacher and coach. Life, however, got in the way, and I didn’t get around to that until the age of 58.

Right out of school, I was looking for a job in the city. I started off in the textile industry — it was a good first job and I did that for five years.

I went into the asset management business with a firm called Lord Abbett. I was there for 10 years, in sales and marketing as a regional manager. I left to head up the asset management distribution at what was Chase Manhattan, which merged with J.P. Morgan, and I did that for about 15 years.

In 2006, I left J.P. Morgan and kicked around for a few years. I decided that I would pursue something that I had always wanted to do. I coached high school basketball for a year in Westchester County. I enjoyed it, and decided that I did want to work with kids.

In 2010, I went back to school full-time at Manhattanville College to earn my master’s in education. I learned that special education teachers were needed, so I became dually licensed in that and social studies. They had an accelerated program that got me into the classroom after a year. I learned that when you’re in a classroom full of adolescent kids with special needs, there’s no real preparation for that other than on-the-job training.

I teach science and social studies to special education students at a middle school in the Bronx. KAPPA III is a public school with a lot of accountability for discipline and results on the part of students and teachers. I teach kids who have learning disabilities and emotional disabilities, and when you overlay that with socioeconomic disadvantages, it can make for a very challenging environment.

But as I’ve spent more time with the special education population — the kids who really need help and guidance — I’ve found that this is who I’m supposed to be working with, and really like working with. This is my third year. My mission is to give our kids a feeling of being safe, teach them, and if I can help them in any way, then I’ll consider it time well spent.

In my second act, I’m doing something that I’ve always wanted to do. With teaching, I don’t have time to coach anymore. Maybe coaching will be my third act.

I’ve been very happily married to Kathy for 37 years. We have four sons: Jim ’02, Michael ’05, Teddy (Lafayette ’08), and Jack (Lafayette ’14). Life’s good from where I’m sitting.