His father, Jim Backus Sr., told him he expected Jason’s best effort at anything he pursued. His professor taught him how to use that effort to make a difference in the classroom, Backus said.
“He always expected great things from me,” the math teacher said of his father.
Backus, an Alexander High School math teacher, won the Douglas County School System’s top educator award for 2013-14 during a ceremony Oct. 5.
He now will represent Douglas County in the Georgia teacher of the year competition, with a winner named in the spring.
Backus said he gained inspiration from University of West Georgia assistant professor Thomas Peterson, who told him a student’s behavior may become clearer if a teacher treats that child as a person rather than a test number.
“Dr. Peterson was big on telling you, ‘You need to meet them personally,’” he said.
Backus teaches math to regular students as well as those who require extra attention to learn the subject. Judges told him they liked the way he interacted with his students and the way he injected humor into his lessons.
“If I get down to earth with these kids, it helps,” he said.
Backus said personal attention can lead to a better understanding of the source of a student’s approach to schoolwork, such as financial or other problems at home. However, the teacher also needs to explain his expectations to the student and reassure him help is available, Backus said.
The 31-year-old teacher and native Douglas Countian spent his entire eight-year career at Alexander. Backus is the third Alexander teacher in five years to win the countywide honor, following science teacher Ryan Adams in 2009 and history teacher Mike Bedosky in 2010.
He said the school’s work environment helps because it is a “family atmosphere” between teachers and administrators.
Backus is a graduate of Lithia Springs High School and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of West Georgia.
He and wife, Erin, are the parents of two boys. They are expecting a daughter in December.
Backus also works as the youth minister at Villa Rica First United Methodist Church. He said such work allows him to mentor to two different groups of students.
“They’re like my second group of kids,” he said.