STORY AND PHOTOS BY JENNIE TREJO
Josh Taylor was deployed to the Middle East, flying missions into Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, when he realized that many of the people he spoke to were divided. It was 2018, and Josh had already been in the Armed Forces for over ten years, but he wanted to find a cause that could unite the nation. “Flying 65,000 miles and spending 300 hours in a machine gives somebody a moment to think,” Josh says. Eventually, he found his answer– our youth, and alongside them, our educators– have the strength to be the foundation for our country.
It was always in Josh’s heart to continue to find ways to serve the community after he separated from the military. When he returned home in 2021, he knew he wanted to find a way to help educators feel some of the recognition that he felt in his uniform. That is how the Kvell Watches and the “Elev8 an Educator” program were born.
“There’s so much symbolism and significance that we put into this product,” Josh says. “Our country does a phenomenal job recognizing service members and veterans, but teachers go largely unnoticed. Part of this is because they do not have a uniform, so they are not easily discernible in the community. The watches are meant to change that.”
Kvell watches are bright “school bus” yellow because they are meant to stand out. The case on the face of the watch is real maple, inspired by classic #2 pencils. The Apple watch bands, which are offered in addition to the traditional watches, are “seat belt” inspired NATO straps, the same ones used in the military. Engraved in the stainless steel inside the watch reads, “Thank you for your commitment. Proudly supporting.”
“Educators put so much love and effort into their work,” Josh says, “They develop such a high-quality experience and deserve a quality product in return. Our mission is to start a movement and elevate their status here.”
The movement that Josh is referring to is something he describes as a citizen’s movement. Now that the watches are designed, the new task is to get them out to all educators and school staff, while teaching the community what they represent.
So far, Kvell Watches has sponsored 1,075 educators. They have gotten a watch on every wrist in Granbury ISD, where Josh’s wife is a third-grade teacher. They are also working on sponsorships for Godley ISD, Azle ISD, Aledo ISD, Stephensville ISD, and Dallas ISD.
A few days before the holiday break– which, if you’ve ever worked in a school, you know is a hectic time– Josh visited John J. Pershing Elementary School in Dallas ISD. Thanks to a partnership with United to Learn, over 70 staff members received watches.
During his presentation that day, Josh explained how 2020 and the post-COVID world have defined how education is such a critical profession.
“I love movies and sports just as much as the next person,” Josh said to the room full of educators, “but the truth is, the world still turned without those professions. With your profession, the world did not still turn. You had to show up. You had to be there. And I would argue you saved lives during that time.”
The synonymous nods and “mhmm” heard across the room proved that the staff felt seen and appreciated. Josh recognized that teachers were still there for their students between the moments of burnout, lack of resources, compassion fatigue, and trauma.
Josh shared a worldwide rankings chart from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018. He pointed out that the United States is being outpaced in academic performance by many other countries, ranked as number 25. He clarified that this is not a reflection of the heart and soul our educators pour into their profession; instead, it directly reflects how we publicly support them.
What are top-ten countries like China, South Korea, and Canada doing? They are elevating their educators.
“Teachers in those countries are on-par with doctors and other critical professions,” Josh says. “I’m not a statistician, but there is a correlation there, right? Educators are held in high regard, they have high-level resources and the result is high performance. The real way we are going to leave no child behind is by ensuring educators have the respect and the resources they need to reach every single child.”
Josh is inspired by the loving and caring adults that spend more awake hours with a student during the school year than their parents. For a child that comes from a broken home, similar to his own experience growing up, they can be the difference that helps them not lose faith in their future before it even begins.
If you would like to recognize an educator in your community or get your school district on the sponsorship list, head to the website. If you see an educator out and about with their watch on, feel free to say hello! Help Kvell Watches give them a way to be seen and the ability to tell the story of the frontline they serve on. Businesses are also encouraged to provide educators a discount when they wear their yellow bands.
“This is perhaps the greatest shift in thinking and unified effort that we as a country could easily implement right now,” Josh says. “We have a responsibility to resource educators properly and elevate their status synonymous with other critical professions.”