Fantasy football adds up for students

Okay this one is a little older but its got some good content and I figured it was timely.

By John Barr
Special to

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Jeneva Westendorf walks briskly through the courtyard of Foothill High School, clutching a walkie-talkie like a sidearm. Students clad in stark black and white uniforms shuffle by, gradually filing into the cluster of classrooms around her.

Gang activity, so prevalent in this part of East San Jose, means the students at Foothill are forbidden to wear any colored clothing to school. To blend in, Westendorf, Foothill’s associate principal, also dresses daily in black and white. But she is hardly colorless as she patrols the courtyard between classes — equal parts drill sergeant and den mother.

“Come on you guys, go to class!” Westendorf hollers at a group of male students loitering by the caged-up vending machines. “Oh man, Eli. Go to class!” she says again, pleading.

How do fantasy football and math class coexist? How does it work?

Foothill is what’s known in California as a continuation school, a high school of last resort for students who, for one reason or another, couldn’t make the grade in more traditional settings. Many of the students here have criminal records. Teen pregnancy is commonplace. For the students who don’t make it at Foothill — the end of the line in San Jose’s public education system — the stakes couldn’t be much higher.

“They go back to their old lifestyles, very dangerous and unsafe,” Westendorf says of the students who drop out. “A lot of them don’t make it to age 30, 35 if they go down that road. Otherwise, they get lower-paying jobs and struggle because the cost of living here is high and it’s not a pretty picture.”

Eventually, a dozen students file into John Hagen’s math class. Just last year, Hagen had a life about as far removed from Foothill High as you could get. As a software engineer for BroadVision Inc., Hagen jetted off to far-flung locations like Germany, England and Singapore to help clients like American Airlines and Lloyd’s Bank establish a presence on the Internet. In 2000, during the height of the dot-com boom, Hagen was riding high, with stock options valued at more than $5 million. Back then, Hagen thought wistfully of teaching as a rewarding career change. But then the dot-coms went bust. In March 2005, BroadVision laid off its entire engineering department. By then, Hagen’s stock options had dwindled, but his passion to return to the classroom remained.

Hagen started teaching math at Foothill High School in January. Faced with the challenge of motivating a group of students who face real-life challenges after the final bell, he sought something beyond traditional math textbooks to help him break through. To the surprise of his students, and many of his colleagues, Hagen’s solution to real-world problems turned out to be fantasy football.

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If you like what you’ve read you might want to check out a site I recently stumbled across called I’ve not read the curriculum and cannot say whether it is any good but perhaps someone who has used the curriculum might give us a little insight.

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