National Guardsman, also a teacher, leads Zoom classes from outside US Capitol
Thousands of National Guard troops were activated at the U.S. Capitol this month to protect the federal building and democracy. Sgt. Jacob Kohut was there, but he had to take a break for a few hours each morning to be a hero elsewhere. Kohut is also a teacher, so every day at the Capitol, he taught classes via Zoom in the back of a military vehicle.
“At school, I’m Dr. Kohut, because I do have a doctorate in composition. In the army, I’m Sergeant Kohut, because that’s my enlisted rank,” the music teacher told CBS News earlier this week.
Kohut teaches band to fifth and sixth graders at Canterbury Woods Elementary School and seventh and eighth graders at Frost Middle School, which are both in Virginia.
He said he lets his students know at the beginning of the school year that he’s also juggling National Guard duty. “I’ve been in the National Guard for 11 years. I’ve been teaching for 11 years,” he said. “They’ve always gone hand-in-hand.”
Juggling his jobs keeps him busy, but Kohut said it’s exciting. “You know, people say that they get burned out or they feel bored by what they do, the monotony of things. And I just don’t feel that because I’m always going from one place to the next and it’s always exciting,” he said.
His National Guard duty doesn’t usually conflict with his day job, but when insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, troops were activated – and Kohut became a lot busier.
He was working 12-hour shifts at the Capitol, meaning less time with his students. “I did get a sub eventually and he’s been on standby, ready to go when the shifts interrupt the classes,” Kohut said. “I’m just doing the [classes] that I can, because I think that we need stability for these kids.”
“They’ve been through a lot. I mean, we’re going on almost a year of virtual [learning] for these kids,” he continued. “So, the last thing we need is more instability from me leaving in some capacity.”
He packed his flute with him and taught like he would any other virtual class – only he was in the back of a military vehicle parked outside the federal building, wearing his fatigues.
To Kohut, both jobs are equally important obligations. “I really do consider myself and other teachers on the front lines of the future working with kids, especially when it comes to music and just having that arts element in education,” he said.
“When I go into school and I see somebody who is ‘just a teacher’ – but they are an awesome teacher – that person is a hero. When I come to this job and I see somebody who is doing this job extraordinarily well, they are a hero in my book,” he told CBS News from the back of a military vehicle. “I’ve always had just an admiration for people who do their job well and, in my mind, are true heroes.”