Let’s get to know Benick: Making the most of education


Benick after a lovely interview gives the smile he reflects on to all his students. (Alayna Erpelding ’24)

Bohden Cervenka ('24), Featured Writer

James Benick, a Minneapolis Southwest High School teacher and coach, shared what he has learned in his 35 years working with students, what Southwest means to him, and the impact he hopes to have within the community.

Benick plays a huge role at Southwest, teaching nutrition, IB sports and exercise science, fitness for life, weight training, and athletic performance. He has also coached football since the beginning of his career, with this year being his first off the field. 

I have taken one of Benick’s nutrition classes, which I would describe as warm and friendly. This is exactly what he said when I asked how he hoped his students described his class.

Tess Saindon (‘24) described Benick’s class as “super fun and he always had some good music on.” 

Although Benick may look tough, as I’ve gotten to know him and his class, he is the most open and comforting teacher I’ve ever known. 

“He has a super amazing teaching style that keeps me engaged and helps me learn better,” Axel Hardwood-Glover (‘24) said, sharing his favorite thing about Benick’s class.

Benick was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1964. His first job was as a college football coach. He grew up with a single mom, which shaped him significantly and showed him how he wanted to be in his adult years and the impact he wanted to make on people in the world. As a positive person, he is always able to turn the negative into a positive learning experience. I asked Benick if it’s hard for him to share so much about his personal life and past with his students and he responded “absolutely not, it’s not hard.” 

“I think telling my stories and my journeys that relate to the things we are learning in class help connect the students to the topics,” Benick added. “It is really important to me because if I could help young people learn from my mistakes so they don’t do them I feel like I could make a difference.” 

Benick has had a significant impact on the Southwest community. 

“He has helped me improve my personal morals and taught a lot about being mindful and caring,” Harwood-Glover said.

Benick has been in the Southwest community for 20 years and all three of his children have graduated from there. He shared that he “loves the school atmosphere” and that it has been a huge part of his family. 

He believes that he is a “positive-energy individual and has a positive outlook and always tries to embrace the day one day at a time because—as I know—Minneapolis is unpredictable.” His teaching and impact go far beyond the walls of the high school and he has been able to meet the needs of students in and outside of the traditional classroom.

“I had Benick as a teacher online, but even then I got a good and welcoming vibe from his class,” Saidon said.

I have learned from Benick, through this interview and his class, to make the most of every bad situation and greet everybody with a smile because you never know what they might be going through. 

“In 35 years of coaching and teaching, I’ve grown significantly as an educator and a coach and in regards to being more student-athlete focused and relationship based than I was as a young one,”  Benick said.