For the last 24 years, a classroom has replaced the gym for former North Dakota State women’s basketball standout Pat (Smykowski) Jacobson.
Thirty school desks, a white board that covers the front of the room, a life skills poster and yes, of course, a mini basketball hoop taped on a wall is where the member of NDSU’s 1,000-point club spends most of her days now.
Basketball is still very close to her heart.
Ben Franklin Middle School in Fargo, is where Jacobson teaches students grades six through eight on how to improve their character, control self-esteem, learn to respect and take responsibility for their actions. The exact lessons Amy Ruley, Kelly Lehman, Lynn Dorn and other role models and coaches taught Jacobson during her four-year career with the Bison.
She’s more than a teacher during her eight to four shift; she’s taken on a counselor, coaching and sometimes, even a parent role.
Her teaching philosophy is based off her experiences as a student-athlete on NDSU’s campus and inside the Bison Sports Arena.
“I really want to instill the importance of being accountable for themselves,” Jacobson said while sitting in one of her students’ desks. “It’s obvious what they learn, but it’s not what they learn, it’s trying to get them to be better people at the end of the semester.”
Jacobson is all about lending a helping hand to her students.
As she walks around the middle school she greets every student with a smile and a “Hello” as they pass her in the hallways. Students look up to her and tend to excel a little better in her class compared to others.
“You know it’s funny, I was actually speaking with the principals and I don’t have many students that don’t do their work and I don’t have many students who don’t do their best and one of them was reflecting on that and wondering why those same kids aren’t doing the same in other classes,” the teacher said. “I think because I have that ‘I’m not going to give up attitude’ and I think I got that from being in athletics. So I don’t give up on them.”[/text_output]
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[text_output]Maybe that’s because she has a winning mentality and never wants to see the kids take a step back toward failure. Between the 1985-1989 seasons that Jacobson played, her team never lost more than 10 games in a season.
Open up the Bison record books and you’ll see Jacobson’s name all over the pages. She’s second in all-time scoring, third in field goals made and attempted, second in steals and first in assists.
Now her son AJ and daughter, Sarah are trying to follow in their mother’s footsteps.
AJ is a sophomore at NDSU and played significant minutes this past season for a team that made the NCAA Tournament.
And Jacobson’s daughter, Sarah, helped Shanley High School win the Class A Girls State Championship her junior year and received All-Tournament Team honors, as well as the most valuable player of the tournament award this March.
“I’m thankful AJ chose NDSU and, you know, one of the big things that I instill in my kids is to go someplace where there are people that care about you and take care of you. Obviously we have that at NDSU,” the 48-year-old said. “I hope he continues to do well. I know he will work at it and do his best and we’ll see what happens to Sarah. I’d be cool if she would go there, but I’m not quite certain that will be the case.”
Jacobson is married to Tim Jacobson, who is a family practice physician at the VA Hospital.
When the two aren’t attending AJ’s games, following Sarah around during her summer basketball tournaments or helping the community, they enjoy sunny days at their second home.
“We have a lake cabin,” Jacobson said. “I enjoy water sports. My family is really important to me, my religion is really important to me (and) I like to read.”
Jacobson said there isn’t much jump in her jumper anymore, but she is thankful for where she’s at in life.
“I’ve been blessed with basically an easy life. Blessed with two great kids, blessed with an awesome job, awesome husband, great friends. So yeah, I have no regrets,” Jacobson said.
Her basketball playing days are now over, but as a mother and teacher she still carries characteristics that were instilled in her at NDSU two decades ago.[/text_output]