ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4) — The general understanding of college athletes is that they are students who also happen to represent their college in sports. However, this soccer player from Utah Tech University doesn’t only take classes at the college she goes to, she also teaches some of them.
Jaci Cook-Dandos is a part-time English professor at the same institution she plays soccer for. She is a forward on the Utah Tech women’s soccer team. Thanks to the pandemic, she ended up in a unique situation.
“I was supposed to be done in the spring, but since COVID gave us a year back, I can now start my master’s program, and within the master’s program, they offer you credit for teaching,” Cook-Dandos said.
Teaching classes and playing soccer may take up a lot of her time, but she genuinely enjoys doing both.
“Soccer is absolutely worth it,” she said. “I want to be able to continue to play, but I also don’t want to just show up and take a bunch of classes that are not going to help me down the road. I want to make the most out of it while being here.”
She graduated from Utah Tech with a degree in biology, initially planning on becoming a vet. But now she said she wants to be an athletic director, and she hopes working with students now will help get her prepared.
“[Becoming a] professor is not the goal, ” Cook-Dandos said. “But I am growing quite fond of it. I could see myself doing it as a retirement plan. Right now it’s something I’m just exploring and learning about.”
While teaching English and playing soccer may seem like two very different things, she said she is beginning to see some commonalities between the two.
“Preparation is huge,” she said. “I would say 90% of the teaching I do is preparation, the other 10% is me just standing up in front of the kids and delivering on it. Soccer is the same way. It’s all about practice, the extra hours you’re putting in, what you are doing to get ready for the game. The game is only 10% of the process.”
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, she walks into the Utah Tech campus not as a student, but as a professor ready to teach.
“My teammates are funny,” Cook-Dandos said. “I have freshmen who are taking the same class [that I’m teaching], so I get questions like, ‘So this is the essay I’m writing, does this sound good?,’ and I’m like, ‘Ask your professor because she’s doing something different than I am.’ They’re not taking my class, but they should!”