In March, I proudly started a series on people who go the extra mile to inspire and enrich the community around them. First, we met Shari Grimes and the work she does for the Hope House, then we met a few lovely young ladies at the Focus Institute who challenged each other to go without make-up for nearly a month. This month, meet Jordan Crawford and his wife Tiffany.
Jordan Crawford is hard to miss. At 6’7″, he towers over the students as he walks down the hallways of Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia. He is a special ed teacher and track coach for this urban public school. In what some consider a challenging educational environment, Crawford stands out for his kindness and his belief that nobody gets left behind.
Considering that teaching wasn’t Jordan’s first choice (his degree is in Accounting), he’s been at the school for six years, developing a rapport with his students and his athletes. When asked why he’s stuck with it for so long, he answers, “I guess I’m just an underdog fan. Unfortunately, the special ed kids sometimes get brushed aside. I don’t know that I’m a great teacher, but I try to forge relationships with the kids. They know I’m there looking out for them.”
One of the reasons Jordan enjoys working with the youth is because he understands that in urban schools, positive male influences are in high demand. “A lot of the kids come from single-parent homes. Moms are working to make things happen and trying to keep their heads above water. So they’re involved, but not as influential as they’d like to be. Especially for the guys’ side, they’re lacking for quality role models. [They need] somebody who has honest conversations with them.”
His track team boasts 90 students, far larger than most; however, Jordan doesn’t believe in cutting kids. “It’s such a cool thing to belong,” he says. “I don’t care if it takes you a half an hour to run a mile. Get out there and be a part of it.
“You have the same thing in the special ed department,” he continues. “They’re going to get picked on and made fun of. I do whatever I can, even if it’s just me talking to them in the hallway because someone else thinks I’m a cool teacher. It’s the little stuff that makes that kid’s day. If I can play that part, I’m all for it.”
Jordan and his wife Tiffany have an open door policy at their home that’s just a few minutes from the school. Students and athletes in troubled situations have found the Crawford house to be a refuge during rough times. Tiffany adds, “We tell the kids if they’re not safe, they’re more than welcomed to come here.”
He has many stories of students that he’s offered help to, even when they are no longer in his care at school. For example, Jordan keeps up with former students whose lives took a wrong turn and they’ve wound up in jail. Of the success stories, Jordan and Tiffany have taken students to college preview weekends to give them a fighting chance at a better life.
“My role is bigger than teaching and track,” Jordan says. “[It's about] making an impact on their next step and for them to see what a husband’s supposed to be, what a father’s supposed to be or just a contributing member of society.”
So, what drives the Crawfords to go above and beyond the call?
“It’s spreading Christ’s love and letting the kids see that,” Jordan says. “It’s real application. It’s not just, ‘Let me show you the Roman Road,’ and then walk away. The kids ask, ‘Why are you doing this?’ It’s not about the money. We’re fine. You get to share Christ with the kids in a real way… in a way that they’re seeing it and not just hearing it. We’ve had kids comes to church with us. We have kids that are Christians on the team, and we have a lot of conversations about how that’s supposed to look.”
Tiffany adds, “We believe we’re called to a life of service. We’re here to love people and serve them, and that’s what we’ve chosen to do. We don’t believe in having a spiritual life and a secular life. It’s one life. You live your Christianity through that. We want to show our children that this is what it’s about.”
When asked what life lesson he carries with him through all of his teaching and coaching experiences, Jordan says readily, “Don’t give up on anybody. Don’t give up on any one kid because they don’t do well in class or don’t show up to practice. My goal in the classroom and on the track is: don’t let anyone fall through the cracks.”