LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A teacher in the Jefferson County Public Schools is motivating good student behavior uniquely. Once a month, students at W.E.B. Dubois Academy have the chance to win a new pair of Air Jordans, the basketball shoes made by Nike. 

What You Need To Know

  • 11-year-old Bryson Abren was the first to win a new pair of Air Jordans from his teacher

  • His teacher, Tony Catalano, says the school wants reward students to complete their work and have good behavior

  •  Catalano came out of retirement  to continue teaching at Jefferson County Public Schools

  • Catalano pays for the shoes himself

11-year-old Bryson Abren was the first to win a brand-new pair of “Jordans” from his teacher.

“It was really exciting and I’ve never, ever had a teacher like that ever, like, give a gift like that big,” Abren said. 

It came at a good time because he misplaced his shoes at the beginning of the school year.

“First week of school, I misplace my shoes, and I never found them again; so, now I’m wearing a pair of my big brother’s school shoes,” he said. 

His teacher, Tony Catalano, says the school wants him to reward his students to complete their work and have good behavior. So, Catalano said the best way to do that was to let the students pick their incentive.

“Every student puts their first and last name on an index card and their shoe size. And then if they complete all their work and have no behavior issues, I put the card into a drawing and then we draw it out and whoever is drawn out wins,” said Catalano.

Catalano retired in 2016 after 27 years of teaching at JCPS. Then, last year he said Superintendent Marty Pollio asked him to come out of retirement because the district had a shortage of science teachers. The call came as Catalano felt like retirement just wasn’t as exciting as he thought it would be.

“I’m like retirement is not all that it is chalked up to be because after you have done everything on your bucket list, you’re sitting around going what’s next?” Catalano said.

So, he said he was more than happy to come back to teaching.

“Well, the reason I came back is to give back. I became a teacher because I love students. I love being around students. I love dealing with students. I rather deal with students than adults any day,” he said.

His love for teaching doesn’t go unnoticed by his students. Abren said Mr. Catalano is his favorite teacher.

“It’s just like the way that he teaches is, like, different than the other teachers. Like he teaches and like he walks in with a smile all the time, excited,” Abren said.

Catalano credits his decades of experience with the success he has with students. 

Catalano said he pays for the shoes out of his own pocket. He said that unlike other teachers; he has funds available because he is still getting his retirement funds and his salary.