The day I first met with the parents of Jess, our former student, now a member of the Learning Center staff, I quickly concluded that this family would thrive in our school environment. My conclusion has never waned.
Jess brings her story to life. Enjoy her very candid and inspiring responses to my interview questions:
1. What grades did I attend at TLC? After being homeschooled, my parents put me into TLC in fourth grade. I went from fourth grade all the way up until eighth, graduating in 2012.
2. Best TLC Memories?
When I was in middle school I was one of those very edgy goofy kids who wanted to only wear black all the time. There was no black TLC shirt. However, my mom worked at a print shop at the time and I begged her to make a black TLC shirt. She did, but told me to make sure it wasn't against dress code when I got to school. Next thing I knew, they were selling black t-shirts in the office! I was also here for the creation of the drama program. This was the 2011-2012 school year, and if I'm not mistaken, one of Mr. Ryan's first years at TLC teaching. He and Ms. Judy C. led the drama elective, and that year we performed The Princess and the Pea. I was the evil queen and I remember being handed my costume (a lime green and hot pink floor length gown) and being so upset that I was not consulted about what colors I wanted my costume, and how evil queens should have totally worn black and not pink. I also remember being very upset that the year the drama program started was the year I would be moving up into high school. Right after I left, my little sister soon took my place in the program and I got to live vicariously through her by coming to see every show.
3. Favorite teacher and why?
I work with almost all my previous TLC teachers now, so to avoid starting anything I'm going to pick a teacher who no longer works for this school! Ms. Breanne K. was here for several years while I was in school. She encouraged me to by myself - be the unique and often very weird little Jess that I was (that I am). She encouraged me to dive further into the arts, and was a very strong mentor for me while growing up. I remember her making me feel very safe and secure in myself, and would assure me that it was okay to be different - that all the best people are.
4. Highlights from high school?
High school was an extremely chaotic time. I started the Early College as an eager and excited 14 year old and graduated second in my class as an exhausted, frustrated, and totally apathetic 18 year old. Despite high school being super rough on me in a lot of ways, through their PBL method of teaching I learned very quickly that I had a huge passion for filmmaking. Every single project we had to do, there I was with a camera, dragging my classmates along with me as actors. I continued to do that into college, graduating from the Media program at UNCG in 2019. One of my fondest memories was being taught by Ben Owens, the math and physics teacher at that time. I struggled and struggled with his classes, but that man never gave up on me. He tried so many different things to help me and my classmates learn; he gave us numerous pep talks, stayed after school almost every single day, and was constantly showing us multiple ways to figure things out until it would finally start to click. He would give me and the other students passionate and heated lectures every time any of us mumbled "I can't do it." or "I'm too dumb for this." I learned that no matter the challenge, you can always overcome it with a lot of hard work and by always surrounding yourself with people who genuinely care and want to help. 5. Why am I working at TLC currently, and how does it link to my future goals?
Inspired by my own experience with life-changing teachers, I had always wondered if I could provide the same thing for struggling kids; a safe place to learn and grow not only academically, but as a human being. I really want to help kids develop the skills to be functional and kind adults, because we definitely need more of those out and about in the world. Right now I'm just dipping my toes into what it's like working in a school setting, and I think I'm finding out what my true passion is: counseling! Hopefully in the future I can secure the money to go back to college and study to become a student counselor. Right now it seems like a very distant dream, but I've got to keep my hopes up!
6. Do I see my younger self in the students?
Oh yeah, all the time and it's both extremely frustrating and hilarious. I remember being so sassy as a pre-teen/teen. I thought it was so funny to be disrespectful and push the boundaries with my teachers, and I see that a lot now and I just have to laugh because it's definitely karma coming back to bite me. Sometimes a student will come to talk to me and I'll see a smart-mouthed little Jess in their eyes, and I can never figure out if I wanna give them a huge hug or grab them by their shoulders and shake them. I have found a new appreciation for every adult who works with older kids and teenagers, for sure.
Jess Nix MTSS 7-9 Intervention Specialist, Junior High Teacher Assistant (She/Her/Hers)