Back to Kindergarten

ABCs
By Maka Boeve

In a June 25, 2019 NBC News story, it was reported that “there is a shortage of 100,000 teachers nationwide.”  There are also worries of potentially lowering educational standards to meet those voids.

Jessica Alexander remarks, “While being a teacher might not be the most desirable job today, it is so necessary and rewarding. Even on the hardest day, I get to go home knowing that I’m having an impact on the next generation.

AUGUST PREPARATIONS

“It is like a dream come true,” Alexander declares with a big smile. She is starting her first job teaching kindergarten at the same school where, 18 years earlier, she attended kindergarten.

In mid-August, Alexander began decorating and preparing her first classroom at St. Pius X School in Rochester. As a young teacher, she’s a little nervous but extremely enthusiastic. As a student, there were the butterflies of knowing who was going to be her teacher. Now there’s the delight of finding out which students are in her classroom. She also feels nostalgic, because while obviously some things have changed, many are just as she remembers.

BOXES AND BACKPACKS

“Back-to-school time makes me feel giddy,” Alexander laughs as she tells of the boxes that are overflowing on her dining room table. “I used to love picking out backpacks, notebooks and colored pencils, but now it’s exciting to search for organizational bins, locker tags and other school supplies.”

“It’s going to be really cool that I’ll be working alongside teachers who taught me. I‘m excited to come home, and, most importantly, I feel that the school where I attended made me the person I am today. I cannot wait to give back to the community that gave so much to me.”

CAREER PATH

Alexander recalls, “I always have liked little children, but especially after I was a nanny, I realized that teaching was my calling.”

Alexander completed her student teaching requirements and graduated last year from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, which was formerly Iowa State Teacher’s College from 1909 to 1961. With double majors in elementary and early childhood education and a minor in literacy, Alexander chose this unique curriculum program because it allowed her to get into a classroom her first semester of college.

CHALLENGES AND CONCERNS

Alexander is not naïve about the challenges of modern-day teaching, even in the elementary grade settings. “It’s my great responsibility and my duty to ensure the safety of all my students, but it’s more than that. It makes my heart happy to have all these little people look up to me and give me hugs. I want them to know that they are loved, and I believe in them.” She wants to foster a return of innocence and fun to kindergarten.

There is also the big concern about the future lack of educators. “I’m very aware that my peers are choosing different career paths. I have a lot of friends who ask me why I want to be a teacher, because they don’t see the reward. But my rewards are greater than any job,” Alexander explains. She believes that despite the modest pay, the long hours, and the lack of respect, “we cannot give up.” It’s the “light-bulb” learning moments that are the most meaningful. “Having seen that child’s smile when the lesson is learned, like mastering their math facts, is worth everything,” she beams.

Maka Boeve, owner of WaveMaker Consulting, LLC is a freelance writer and educator based in Rochester.