Jon Kitna: Get to class. Hustle!
Julian: In the hallways of Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington, Jon Kitna sounds every bit the football coach he is.
Coach Kitna: Take out your review packet.
Julian: But the inspiring thing about this coach and algebra teacher is that he didn’t need the job at all. John Kitna was an NFL quarterback for sixteen years. He retired last year from the Dallas Cowboys.
Patrick Erwin is the principal at Lincoln.
Patrick Erwin: He didn’t have to come home. He could have stayed in Dallas and been a high school football coach and made scads of money down there.
Julian: But something called Kitna back to this troubled neighborhood, and to the many kids from poor, broken homes.
Coach Kitna: I walked these same hallways. I was here. I get it.
Julian: Kitna went to school here twenty years ago. He was the star quarterback.
Principal Erwin: When Jon signed on to be a math teacher here, he said ‘give me your toughest kids.’ And we did.
Julian: Kids like Rayshaun Miller.
Rayshaun Miller: I really didn’t care about coming to school. I didn’t have any respect for the teachers.
Julian: Kitna scheduled early morning algebra sessions with Rayshaun.
Rayshaun: I started learning how to do math, and I was just like, ‘this is actually not that bad.’ I’m passing with A’s and B’s. Like, I’m sitting by a 3.0 GPA now. I’m like, ‘what just happened?’
Julian: Coach Kitna changed more than just Rayshaun’s outlook, he changed his future.
Rayshaun: I probably wasn’t going to get it together. And now I have a chance at graduating!
Coach Kitna: You can’t come here and be fake. They smell it. They smell it as soon as you come walking in the building if you’re fake. And I just try to be as authentic and real with them as I can, day in and day out.
Julian: Principal Erwin now knows what the ‘the Kitna effect’ is; an ability to reach those others have not.
Principal Erwin: When I went in to watch him teach, I mean, I saw kids who were doing math that I’ve seen sit in other classrooms and never lift a pencil.
Coach Kitna: Something decreases, ok? Here’s the … It starts here. It ends here.
Jessie: It feels really good. That is all I have to say. It feels really good. I feel smart!
Julian: But it is about more than feeling good. His algebra class is the second highest scoring period in the entire school.
Coach Kitna: This final, it should be you getting what you deserve.
I’ve always felt like there’s much more greatness in these halls and in this building than people realize.