The hallways of the Guthrie Center, a central campus for career and technical education in Spring Branch ISD (SBISD), have long echoed with inspiring narratives of educators who left conventional careers to embrace a passion for teaching.
Two notable examples are Darrell Lewis and Daniel Jones, Law and Criminal Justice (LCJ) program instructors at the Guthrie Center. Both men wholeheartedly embody the SBISD tagline of “Inspiring Minds. Shaping Lives.”
From the legal profession to the classroom
Formerly employed in the intense realm of legal work, Jones now relishes the privilege of molding the intellect of his students.
Jones' story began in 2015 when he parted ways with SBSB Law to take on the role of instructor at the Guthrie Center. Having previously been a substitute teacher, Jones deftly navigated his way to his new role as a full-time educator in the school district where he and his children were raised.
“Teaching isn't about forsaking a professional career,” said Jones. “Rather, it’s about infusing classroom education with practical industry knowledge. I firmly believe that my legal background fortifies me to better equip our students for T-2-4 success.” Jones credits a combination of industry know-how, his love for teaching and the support of his wife and family as factors in his success. "They have helped me make this career pivot on my life's journey."
From the beat to the classroom
Darrell Lewis wore several hats before landing as an LCJ instructor at the Guthrie Center. He served in the Marines and became a police officer. He served with Harris and Ft. Bend County law enforcement agencies while also completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice magna cum laude!
In addition to his Guthrie position, Lewis has been an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas - Houston since 2020. He started with the Criminology, Law and Society program and is now also instructing with the Pragmatic Studies program and the new Bachelor of Applied Arts and Science (BAAS) in Social Innovation and Human Service (for graduates of the Associates of Applied Science in Pragmatic Studies program).
In order to have a more regular schedule while raising his son, Darrell become an instructor at Guthrie and attended law school at night! Both Lewis and Jones now hold Juris Doctor (law) degrees.
“I wanted to continue a career of service and to help the next generation(s) make good decisions and avoid the tragedies I witnessed as a first responder,” said Lewis. “I also wanted to share my journey with others in order to inspire and guide them to a fulfilling purpose. I am a lifelong learner and hope to instill this passion in others.”
Student-centered teaching and learning
When asked about his teaching philosophy, Jones asserts an unwavering emphasis on student-centered learning. “Students are invited to share their interests and ideas. I foster a nurturing, collaborative environment,” said Jones. This teaching approach sparks curiosity in his students, further strengthening their understanding of real-world applications and potential career pathways.
“Our students leave with a sense of purpose, duty and direction,” added Lewis. “They acquire a firmer knowledge of how the world works, how to question and reason, and the ability develop the tools needed to turn their goals into reality.”
Another hallmark of Jones’ and Lewis’ teaching strategy is experiential learning. It focuses on hands-on activities that introduce students to industry practice. Jones and Lewis engage with industry partners, such as HCCO Pct. 5 Teen Academy, Houston Bar Association Lawyers in Schools, and the Houston Forensic Science Center. These partnerships provide students with a fascinating peek behind the curtain of potential careers and access to those in the profession.
Paying it forward in SBISD
As a 1980 graduate of Memorial High School, Jones continues to champion the district's can-do attitude and commitment to excellence in education. He credits the great English and social studies teachers he had for teaching him how to research and write papers, skills which set him apart and above during his undergraduate and law school days. “Of course, we read ’To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Jones recalls. “The Atticus Finch character gave many future lawyers inspiration. Those teachers also inspired and gave me confidence in creative writing.”
Lewis graduated from Spring Branch High School in 1978 before starting his career journey. “In the Marines and in policing I witnessed the best and worst in people, and was able to help those in need,” said Lewis. “Becoming a teacher is simply another facet of my overall career of service to others and paying it forward.
“The hands-on approach and the teaching by content area experts with industry experience, drew me to becoming part of the Guthrie Center.”
Jones encourages students interested in entering the Law and Criminal Justice program at the Guthrie Center to approach the field with an open mind. “It’s not glamourous like what you see on television,” said Jones. “What makes it worth it is the opportunity to assist those less privileged.”
For more information about SBISD’s Career and Technical Education Programming, click here.