"My mom was 95% my inspiration to become a teacher." Pride filled this immediate response when I asked our 7th-9th science teacher about the life-decisions that led her into the classroom. Jessie, six years older than a brother diagnosed with autism, watched her mother's dogged determination to learn all she could to beat the odds with the challenging diagnosis. She saw this strong woman in her life commit to the education needed to become a certified teacher working in both Elementary and Exceptional Children programs. Jessie did not question that she would move forward with her unique version of following in her mother's footsteps.
Jessie first entered our classrooms as a substitute then as an assistant. Like her mother, she did a fine balance of work as she worked toward her degree. Certified in Elementary Education as well as 6th-9th Math and Science, without question, her love is science. She confidently describes the environment when she is certain great learning is taking place: Students are engaged, collaboration is the approach that moves project-based learning forward, and excitement is in the air as the class preps for their presentations. Two favorites for both students and teacher are the in-depth projects developed and problems solved in the Wolves of Yellowstone, and, well before COVID, the Ebola Outbreak and Management challenges.
This "don't hold back" personality in the classroom embraces change, as she continually forces herself to evaluate the learning process: Is this approach working for all my students? If not, what do I need to add? What will it take for this one student to take in the concept? Her willingness to adapt to the diverse learning styles and the broad range of student interests defines the sense of possibility she offers.
A common love of Harry Potter led Jessie and another teacher to offer a nonfiction version of Quidditch as one of our electives. Their research led to improvisations. Quaffles are replaced with dodge balls and goals are made of hula hoops mounted on PVC pipes, while snitches enter the game in the effort to avoid being tagged by either team's seeker. NO, our students do not fly, but please watch out on our campus for Learning Center players straddling brooms as they participate in this highly engaging sport.
Recently I met with Jessie to interview her regarding her mother's blog story (The Making of a Teacher, May 25, 2021). As we concluded, I saw her face light up. "I have an idea!" She went on to describe her vision for horticulture and animal science programs designed to offer entrepreneurial and career opportunities to our students.
Teaching with enthusiasm, believing that every student has potential, offering diverse opportunities wins out over Harry Potter magic when delivered consistently in our classrooms. The end result: Our students embrace the call to FLY HIGH.