ABC30 salutes Jonathan Clark on Black History Month for his exceptional skills inside and outside the classroom.
Clark teaches at Granite Ridge Intermediate in the Clovis Unified School District. He covers topics like organisms and solar systems.
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He's perhaps best known for his slam dunks, which also teach impressive lessons on energy, force and motion. "During my weekends and summers, I'm a professional dunker," said Clark.
Clark grew up in Southern California and excelled in track and field as a teen. His mother played basketball at Pepperdine. She taught him to dream big and work hard. He worked out at the Crenshaw YMCA.
Clark was devastated when he did not make the basketball team his first year at Loyola High School.
"I was really a small guy when I first started out in high school. I was a late bloomer, so basketball kind of wasn't my sport. I ended up falling in love with track and field, and through some hard work and a little bit of a growth spurt, I ended up earning a scholarship to UCLA where I ran track," Clark said.
He became a two-time All American triple jumper and graduated with a degree in Psychology.
At 6' 3", he later found a passion to play basketball again. "After games, I would just throw down slam dunks, and I would post them on my Instagram, not thinking much of it. Over time, you know I gained more followers, and people kind of wanted to see more dunks, and this led me down this path of traveling the world and doing different dunk contests," said Clark.
Clark's running vertical leap is 46 inches and holds the Outdoor World Record Dunk on the highest rim at 11' 8".
He has 200,000 followers on Instagram, and his big dunks are earning him big views on YouTube. A compilation of his dunks on Dunkademics went viral topping 2 million views.
He is known as J-Clark, the JUMPER. "JUMPER stands for 'Just Using My Passion to Elevate Realities,' so the goal is just using my passion for dunking, using my passion for sports, to just motivate anybody to chase their dreams and do anything that they have a passion for as well," said Clark.
He earned his Master's in Kinesiology from Fresno Pacific University and his teaching credential at Fresno State.
"To help pay for grad school I started substitute teaching and day one of being in the classroom I kind of fell in love with it," said Clark. "I remember going to lunch and calling my wife and just telling her, 'I think I'm going to be a teacher.' I got my teaching credential and just never looked back."
Clark will sometimes incorporate basketball into his science lessons in class.
"We'll go into Newton's Laws, and we're talking about equal and opposite with certain dunks. Let's say you're taking the ball out of someone's hands, and you know this principle you can apply force down, and you get a force back. That way, you get a little boost into the air, and you can do much more technical tricks, or even just talking when we're playing basketball games or looking at, you know, NBA games and you're looking at guys like Zion Williamson. People say, 'well, what happens when he goes up in the air?' You can look at his mass and his force, and you know that it's going to take a lot of force for somebody to stop him and you can just really appreciate the things that you see in the professional athletes or just even within myself just the amount of work that goes into doing what you do to overcome those forces " said Clark.
Clark recently became a father.
He says his students are impressed with his skills, but he wants them to pursue their own dreams and to know nothing is ever impossible.
"I just think at the end of the day, I want my students to be passionate about things and pursue their passions. Whatever avenue or field of endeavor that is. You can chase your impossible."
Learn more about Clark's acheivements on his website.