Teacher Applauds Otterbein Preparation
Editing a newspaper, discussing world cultures, preparing students for writing college essays, and helping struggling readers are all in a day’s work for first year teacher, Jessie Hemmelgarn.
After completing Otterbein University’s post baccalaureate teacher licensure program, Jessie began her first year of teaching at Worthington-Kilbourne High School. Following a successful career in radio, Jessie felt a tug to switch careers. “I wanted to do something that I could see the impact of my work. I have found the right job. Everyday my students show me what they have learned,” Jessie says.
Jessie combined a high school English licensure, a Reading Endorsement (a certification for working with students who have difficulties with the reading process), and a journalism background to shape her current and unique teaching assignment. At Worthington-Kilbourne, Jessie teaches an advanced composition class for high school seniors planning on attending college, a journalism course, and a course for struggling readers. “Worthington was really excited that I have a high school license and a reading endorsement. The leadership gave me the freedom to design the class. I talked to two of my professors, Dr. Carrie Sheckelhoff and Dr. Kristen Reninger and based on their suggestions, I made a game plan for my students – and it is working!”
Otterbein’s education program prepared Jessica with current literacy assessment and instructional tools that are functional at all grade levels. “The tools that I have are more relevant. A lot of the teachers I work with didn’t know about these resources and I get to share them.” In addition to being well prepared, Jessica feels connected to the Otterbein alums. Through faculty, she has partnered with another Worthington teacher and Otterbein alum, Jamie Barr, who is teaching kindergarten. Jessica’s students record story books on a web program called Photostory and Jamie’s students can listen and watch the stories for story time. “My high school students get to practice their fluency and the kindergarten students have someone reading to them.”
Jessica has seen a lot of successes. Her journalism classes have created magazines, television shows, newspapers and documentaries. Some of her students passed the Ohio Graduation Test, which they were previously unable to pass. She attributes this to teaching them academic language, or the language typically used in textbooks, in classrooms, and on tests. This language is more formal than everyday conversation and not as familiar to the students.
Jessie participated in a service learning trip with Dr. Diane Ross and Dr. Adele Weiss to Uganda. It shaped her ideas about education and teaching. “The trip to Uganda inspired me to learn more about education in other countries - working on International education. I plan on studying with teachers internationally in a few years. It inspired me to make my classroom more global. I have my students go to a place where they are a minority. They do an ethnography project- where they study and write about another culture. I show my video from Uganda- showing what life and school are like for them to my students. I teach them that it is their job to learn about other people. I have students who go to food kitchens and Asian supermarkets. They learn about themselves and others and that is one of the goals of my classroom.”
Jessica has two pieces of advice for Otterbein students entering the teaching profession. First - hold out for a job that fits your passions.
“We hear that the market is tough, but hold out for the position that is best for you. I was offered three jobs before I interviewed for this position.” Once the job is secured, Jessie reminds teachers that, “You may be new, but you are going to be an expert on the new standards. You will have an impact and input and you’ll be able to help the veterans as much as they help you. I feel confident in my skills and my Otterbein preparation. Both make us ready to teach.”