He’s enthusiastic, supportive, ambitious, optimistic and successful. Most importantly, he cares about the kids.
“I tell them when I meet them, ‘I’m putting my son or daughter’s face on you,’” said Jim LaFountain, explaining that this is how he shows the students he will treat them the same way he treats his own children.
With a chuckle, the Dean of Students noted that those students who end up in detention never fail to remind him of that sentiment.
Jim LaFountain, in his Mount Markham School District office.
“It’s so refreshing to work in a small district,” he said. “Ninety seven percent of what you do is direct relations with the students, parents and coaches.” Earlier on in his career, LaFountain worked for 13 years in the Utica City School District, where he was responsible for the training and development of 1,300 teachers.
Almost three years ago he applied for the position at Mount Markham, and told his wife, “If I can bike there in less than an hour, I will take the job.” Fifty seven minutes later he was interviewing, and soon after he accepted the offer to teach physical education, and is now serving as Dean of Students.
His advice in guiding students is to encourage them to follow a career path that involves whatever they are passionate about. “I teach them to follow their passion. Do what you are passionate about and the money will follow,” he said.
Then he offers his life as proof this theory works. He and his wife, Cindy have always been athletic, as is their son, J.T., and two daughters, Cassie and Taryn, an dnow his daughter in law, Audrey. His life has always involved athletics in some way, whether it was his time playing baseball with the Minnesota Twins, publishing a book on fitness, or as current president and owner of the All-American Fitness Center, in New Hartford.
He and his wife opened that fitness center back in the 80s, when five area fitness centers closed. Recalling how none of the banks they applied to would support their proposal financially, LaFountain said, “I went and sold two hundred memberships door to door.” Twenty nine years later their center is going strong, with programs for individuals and corporations.
When he talks about his life experiences his words are energized, his voice animated and his eyes bright with excitement. “I was programming fitness to kids when I was 15 years old,” he said. His wife, a gymnast, shares his passion. “It’s in our blood, it’s our passion. We don’t do it solely to make a living. We do it because we are passionate about it.”
The decision to end his baseball career came after a fourth knee surgery. But that has not stopped him from helping others be as fit as they can be. In fact, he said they like to “overserve” members of their fitness center. “There has been occasion where if someone misses a couple of sessions I will call them. A couple of times people have missed a few and I went to their house to find out if they were okay,” he said.
And when the national average of people renewing their gym memberships is at 20 percent, his center has a renew rate of 60 to 65 percent consistently.
When not reaching the public through school, or through his fitness center, LaFountain teaches people about fitness as an author. He is currently working on a second book, following his first, “Fitness – your way: Choosing to get in shape on your terms.”
But getting back to the kids, it always comes back to the kids with LaFountain. He tries and succeeds in helping each kid reach their potential and find the path in life that will bring them the most success and happiness in life.
“I want to position each kid for success,” he said, “and then teach them how to define that success.”