Mr. Joe Adams sums up his life in the classroom


Doug Bell

Mr. Joseph Adams, a math teacher here at North Penn uses stories of his past to relate to his students.

TOWAMENCIN- “I see math differently than a lot of people, so helping people see it from a different perspective is part of what I enjoy about this job,” explained Mr. Joseph Adams, a math teacher here at North Penn High School. For Adams, putting things in perspective is something he emphasizes to students not only when it applies to math, but also when it applies to all parts of life. It should come as no surprise that Adams puts such an emphasis on perspective given the many twists and turns that his own life has taken.

After high school, Adams worked for a few years as a roofer near where he grew up on Long Island , and in 1984, he decided to enlist in the Army.

“I served in the military when there was still a fence up between East and West Germany, so I did border duty there,” Adams recalled.

Of course, anyone in the military has a slew of stories tell about his/her experience, and Adams is no different. He remembers one specific story that really stuck out. “There were three East German soldiers having lunch about five feet from the border. Their helmets were off, weapons on the ground…and there were about twenty of us that came over this hill, and [the East Germans] went nuts right away. They jumped up and their weapons leveled at us… then they realized there is about twenty of us taking pictures and stuff,” joked Adams. “They were so busy with us, that they didn’t notice something,” continued Adams. “We called [the encounter] in and walked away, but the whole time, the [the East Germans] were facing us.”

What Adams noticed as he was walking along was that there was a man in basic blue jeans standing on train tracks across the border.

“He’s got his head down, walking and looking like he is inspecting the tracks…and then when he gets to where the fence is, he slows down and then crosses. Then when he gets to where the poles are (the actual border) he does this hesitation, and then lean and walk. So we’re like, ‘Did we just see a guy walk out of East Germany?’

Did we just see a guy walk out of East Germany?

— Mr. Joseph Adams

After calling it in, a German police officer explained that the man was simply a worker.

“He  goes, ‘Oh! The West German train company takes care of the tracks all the way up to the first station. So the guy was wearing brown, right?’ And we told him no the guy was in blue jeans, and the police officer’s eyes went white…he takes off and we never heard anything about it again. But, we watched a guy walk out of East Germany,” reminisced Adams.

After his time in the military, Adams went back home to Long Island where he started school at Dowling College. Unfortunately, he ran out of money and found a job at Granger, an industrial supply company. It was at Granger that Adams met Kevin James. Yes, the very same Kevin James who is a famous comedian and actor.

“I knew Kevin James before he became who he is today. He tried to get me to go on tour with him…He was taking classes at a comedy club on Long Island to learn how to put together a set. Kevin said, ‘why don’t you come on out man?’, and actually I might have thought about it if I hadn’t been married at the time. But, I had bills to pay,” explained Adams.

I knew Kevin James before he became who he is today. He tried to get me to go on tour with him.

— Mr. Joseph Adams

The inspiration and humor behind James’ famous CBS sitcom King of Queens was witnessed by none other than Adams, who spent hours working with the now famous actor.

“The idea behind his show came from his time working at Granger with us. He used to work in the shipping department talking to the UPS guys,” said Adams.

After a number of years at Granger, Adams decided it was time to go back to college. He returned to Dowling College to pursue a degree in math. In his return to Dowling, Adams discovered his passion for teaching.

“My first class I took, the door was in the front of the classroom where the boards were and where the teaching happened. I walked in the classroom, and I just looked at the class from that perspective and I went, ‘This is where I want to be’. That was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life, in front of a class,” reflected Adams.

I walked in the classroom, and I just looked at the class from that perspective and I went, ‘This is where I want to be.’

— Mr. Joseph Adams

Adams continued his education at Dowling until he moved to Philadelphia in early 2002. He finished his degree at Temple University in 2004 and started at Penndale Middle School in the fall of 2004 as a math teacher. Ultimately, Adams moved up to North Penn High School in 2012 and currently teaches Algebra and Geometry.

Although it has been a long time since his days of watching the escape of an East German or cracking jokes with Kevin James, Adams still uses his many stories and experiences to provide students with an engaging learning experience.

As for his life outside the classroom, Adams’ hobby is pretty simple. When asked this question, Adams looked up with a most genuine smile on his face and replied, “I really enjoy spending time with my wife”.