Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, Jessica is a proud product of the Gary Community School Corporation. Despite a lack of school funding, she watched as her teachers took the time to make education come alive through providing opportunities such as field trips to Chicago Shakespeare Theater and chances to learn stagecraft and acting from professionally trained members of the theatre community.
It’s difficult to pinpoint one moment in time that made Jessica say, “Yes, being an educator is my path…” Rather it is simply a series of events that continue to shape her perspective on moving her passion for teaching and advocacy that makes a meaningful impact on the urban educational system. It may be cliché to say, but Jessica is proud of the fact that she comes from a long line of educators. Jessica watched as her grandmother tutored neighborhood children long after she retired from being a first-grade teacher.
“At risk, achievement gap, below average, underserved population….” These are the words used to describe most of the students that Jessica taught from her student teaching experience at Proviso East High School in Maywood, Illinois; Sylvan Learning Center, Kankakee School District #111 in Kankakee, Illinois; and Lighthouse College Prep Academy in Gary, Indiana. At each point in her professional journey, she noticed these words had become a part of her students’ spirit and they had absorbed the weight of them into their everyday life. Whether it was working with students after school in a production of Kitchen Kurls at Proviso, taking a group of students from Kankakee to see “Wicked” in Chicago, helping a child overcome their fear of reading aloud in Sylvan or having a group of seniors become her permanent “Lunch Bunch” at Lighthouse, Jessica took each moment of teacher-student interaction as an opportunity to break the chains of those labels from her students’ identities.
Jessica comes to Educators for Excellence with a bachelor’s in English and theatre arts secondary education from Elmhurst College, a master’s in liberal studies and a Juris Doctor from Valparaiso University. She is a certified English and theater teacher in Illinois and Indiana. She also is a trained mediator through the Center for Conflict Resolutions in Chicago and has a deep passion for poverty law. Jessica joined E4E in order to merge her teaching background with her legal training to help educators find their voice as the true agents of change in education policy.