1 in 300: Getting to know teacher James Rago


Emmy Cohen

As James Rago is working at the McHenry Drive-In Theatre on a Sunday night, he thinks about how tomorrow is Monday and he doesn’t want to go to work, because nobody really wants to go to work. The next day at school he realizes, as he’s talking to his students, that there’s a reason he does his job:  the bonds formed along the way.

“Like you come in on a Monday, like I don’t want to go to work, because it’s work, who wants to work? But then you show up and talk to the kids and you’re like that’s why it’s fun,” Rago said. 

This year, Rago transferred from a normal teacher to a Vanguard teacher. Vanguard is a program where students are able to learn at their own pace, independently with the help of their teachers. The teaching style in Vanguard is different from the traditional classroom’s.

“I teach very similar content and you do a lot of the same things, like it’s still teaching it’s just in a little bit different motor vehicle,” Rago said. “The assessment piece is cool because a lot of times, a student and I will sit down together and we will assess the things together.” 

Students in Vanguard are allowed to choose their schedule for the week and pick which times they want to attend a certain class. 

“The kids are a little more flexible so you can do things in a little less structured and they’ll roll with it,” Rago said. “I don’t see the same kids on the same day at the same time so I don’t have to worry about a seating chart necessarily and I really enjoy the fact that since they pick their schedule I don’t have any of those moments where the kids feel like they have to be here or that they’re dreading to come to class.”

He became a teacher because, according to Rago, he sees things going on in the world, upsetting and scary events that students have no control over. Being in the classroom, they have control over their grades and Rago wants to empower students to use their knowledge to change their own lives. He uses his ability to teach to make students feel welcomed and accepted so that they can express themselves and be confident. 

He works at the McHenry Drive-In Theatre from May to October as a lot manager. He teaches students during the day and works alongside them at night. (Plus, he really enjoys working there because he loves watching movies.)

When students are asked about which teacher they wanted to learn about, they said,”Mr. Rago!”

The reasons why are clear: he connects well with his students and they care enough to get to know him.