Eric Birth realized he wanted to be a physical education teacher in middle school.
“I've always loved sports and hated dressing up, so what better career path is there for a person like me?” he joked.
The job, just like the T-shirt and shorts he can wear while doing it, suits him perfectly.
Birth, a 2013 Winona Senior High School graduate, has returned to the same hallways where his dreams began. Birth is in his first year as a full-time teacher at WSHS, ready and eager to inspire the next generation of Winhawks.
“I was very excited (to return),” Birth said. “I was hoping to land a job at the school after graduating, so I couldn’t be happier that it all worked out.”
Birth taught and coached in the district in part-time roles since graduating from Winona State University, where he played football. But he’s now a full-fledged teacher, working alongside the same people who inspired him to join their fraternity years ago.
“Eric has the potential to have a positive impact on so many people in our school,” said Tim Gleason, a band teacher who used to coach — and now coaches with — Birth in track and field. “He has the power to make a huge difference in the lives of many.”
Birth hopes to inspire his students to find confidence in themselves, their voice, and their place in their school.
“My goal as a teacher is to create a culture of trust and respect to empower, enable and equip my students with the confidence needed to speak up, advocate for themselves, and share their voice when faced with difficult situations when they feel pushed aside, devalued and disengaged,” he said.
Birth should have no problem connecting with students, said John Cassellius, a fellow physical education teacher who coached Birth in football.
“He has always had a charismatic personality,” Cassellius said. “I think he will encourage students to get involved and enjoy their four years at Winona Senior High School. He will always be there to smile and laugh with his students.”
He is coaching eighth-grade football in the fall and will coach the sprinters during track and field season in the spring. In between, his own team is gaining an extra member. He and his wife, Bethany, are expecting their first child in February.
“I cannot stress how happy I am to be back working in this district,” Birth said. “Since graduating high school, I’ve wanted nothing more than to give back to the community that’s helped me get to where I am today.”