Tuscan’s path to GHS

by Jake Fontaine

There’s a new face here at GHS.

You know, that bald, middle-aged man with the barrel-chested physique who comfortably struts around the halls with his sweatpants, sweatshirt, sweat-everything attire and a whistle hanging around his neck? Well, that’s him: John (Coach) Tuscan, the new Physical Education teacher at Grandville High School.

When Tuscan’s wife was offered a corporate position at the Walker Meijer, Tuscan and his family moved up here from their previous home in Charlotte, North Carolina. After several job offers, he decided that the position at Grandville was the perfect fit.

“I narrowed it down between Grandville and Jenison. I could’ve been the Dean of Students at Jenison, but I really wanted to teach PE,” says Tuscan. “Here, I get to teach gym and weight lifting classes, as well as coach on the side. It’s a great gig.” image

Tuscan currently helps coach all levels of the football and baseball teams, primarily working with running backs and hitters. While in North Carolina, he served as the head varsity baseball coach for 9 years at South Mecklenburg high school, even winning a state title in 2013.

Despite 2013 being a year of triumph for Tuscan, he was also faced with the biggest obstacle in his life thus far: testicular cancer.

In the spring of that year, Tuscan’s dog, Mick, a hound mix, jumped on his lap while he was watching television. He instantly felt a sharp pain and fell to floor.

“I felt like someone kneed me in the groin,” Tuscan recalls.

The pain continued for the next week. After seeing four different doctors, Tuscan was eventually diagnosed with testicular cancer and would need surgery and aggressive treatment immediately.

“As a 29 year old sitting in a room from 8 in the morning until 3 in the afternoon with a needle in your arm going through chemo treatment and witnessing people who aren’t going to make, it really puts things into perspective,” says Tuscan.

He is currently cancer free and is in great health, giving gratitude to his dog for this.

“If Mick wouldn’t have jumped on my lap that night, who knows when the tumor would’ve been found. He saved my life.”

Tuscan’s goal as weight-lifting teacher and coach is to provide the best athlete possible through strength training, speed training, and putting athletes in difficult situations that will replicate adversity in a big game.

Spencer Notenbaum, one of the students Tuscan has in class as well as coaches after school, praises Tuscan and his coaching ability.

“He definitely pushes me in the weightroom and on the field,” Notenbaum says. “He’s one of the funniest coaches I’ve ever had, but when it’s time to work we get down to it.”

Eric Stiegel, the head varsity football coach at GHS, has similar praise regarding Tuscan and his coaching mentality.

“I love the jobs he’s doing here,” Stiegel acclaims. “He’s definitely one of–if not the most–important assets to the [football] team’s success next year and for years to come.”

Tuscan has one piece of advice for the students of Grandville:

“Don’t take things for granted, especially at Grandville. You never know when things will change. We have great coaches and a great facility here. Kids all around America would do anything to have the things we do here, so don’t take advantage of it.”

Mrs. Pepper spreads positivity

by Kenny Champion

Mrs. Pepper is a special education teacher who is currently co-teaching biology, and world History courses. She received her bachelor’s degree from Aquinas College in Education. She also graduated with honors with her master’s degree in the Arts of Teaching and Special Education at Aquinas College. We’ve decided to interview her and a few students Mrs. pepper has had a positive impact on.

How did you lose your hearing?

“I believe that I lost my hearing at birth from having jaundice as a baby. I was 18 months old when my family discovered that I could not hear. I was fortunate to having hearing aids to work for me and learned how to communicate with speech therapy as a child. Throughout my school career, I had to work harder to reach my goals but it has been truly rewarding. The power of positivity will get you far in life!”

What were some things you had to overcome when you started teaching?

“I had to learn how to use my resources and develop a network of support with students, colleagues, administrators, and parents. The communication barriers is always a challenge for me and it will never change. I learned the importance of being patient with others, being more confident, and using self-advocacy skills on a daily basis in order to be successful! I am truly blessed and fortunate to be a part of Grandville High School because people are protective and supportive of me. It’s like my extended family!”

How do you manage to teach classes with up to thirty students with your loss of hearing?

“I believe it’s a team effort with my students every year! I do my best to teach students that we are all here to help each other in this world, starting in our classroom. It is important for my students to be aware of my needs as a hearing impaired teacher and specific classroom expectations to run smoothly. Occasionally, some students will take advantage of my hearing impairment and try to get away with it. Most of my students are wonderful and always willing to be helpful! I also have incredible co-teachers in co-taught classes who also help manage the classes with me, I am very grateful for them!”

Did losing your hearing inspire you to get involved with Be nice club?

“Yes, a few years ago, I was asked to become an advisor and I was very honored to do it. Having a hearing impairment helps me use grit to overcome challenges so I try to share my experiences to reach out to everyone. Students who struggle with mental health are often silent so I hope to create more awareness to reach out to students who are struggling everyday.”

Does Be nice club allow you to help students who struggle with similar things ?

“Absolutely! It is all about empathy and spreading kindness to our community. Many people suffer with mental health issues that we don’t even know about and there are too many victims of bullying happening around us. It’s important to be aware to notice, invite, challenge, and empower. It’s incredible how powerful it is by simply “being nice” can impact everyone around you and can actually save lives!”

What’s your favorite memory with Mrs.Pepper?

Makayla Basman- “My favorite thing about Mrs.Pepper is that everyday, no matter what, she’s smiling and has a positive attitude.”

Jimmy Anglim- “I was standing next to the track uniform boxes, and as she was walking by me, I reached my hand out and scared her. We laughed so hard. I love Mrs.Pepper.”