Interview With Jack Bilan

From the interview with Jack Bilan of Port Townsend conducted by Wendy Los at the Fort Worden History Center on July 1, 2003.  Mr. Bilan taught mathematics at the Juvenile Diagnostic and Treatment Center from 1968 until the Center closed in 1971.  Here he describes his work:

“I was teaching mathematics.  We had a maximum of 12 kids in a classroom, although usually it was four to eight kids per class.  I’d say two-thirds boys and one-third girls.  There were four girls cottages and eight boys cottages.  They were very interesting kids.  They were all pretty wild.  At that time, you could be incarcerated for anything from running away from home to murder.  We had kids from that entire range here all thrown together.  We had a couple of murderers, a couple of arsonists—I could think of hundreds of examples of different kids.  Our main job was not to just teach the subject, that was secondary.  The main job was to establish some sort of rapport as a professional school teacher because you were an authority figure.  Almost without exception, these kids had trouble with any kind of authority figure, whether it was police or parents or teachers.  First, you established that you were fair and consistent, then you had to do a good job making them feel good about school.  If that is all you did, and taught them something about the subject matter too, that was fine. I was able to teach quite a bit of subject matter.  I had to individualize my program for each student because kids were coming in and going out all the time.  Some would be here for two weeks, some for a year, some for longer.  There was turn over all the time.  About every two or three weeks, one would leave and someone else would come in; they’d parole kids out and bring new kids in.  You couldn’t teach a normal class in the sense of a lecture, so you had to individualize your instruction.  I had all the kids working on their own assignments.  Some of them were doing arithmetic  and some were doing algebra.”

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