Jennifer Downes: Teacher Appreciation Spotlight

Teacher Appreciation Spotlight: Jennifer Downes

Jennifer Downes

Teacher Spotlight Jennifer DownesJenn has been teaching for a few years now, following in our mom’s footsteps. Oh, did I mention this wonderful teacher happens to be my sister? I am so proud of the work she has done and the dedication she shows to her students while also raising my beautiful nephews!

What grades and/or classes do you teach?

9th grade Reading and AICE General Paper (college-level English)

How long have you been teaching?

This is my fifth year. 

What other grades/subjects have you taught, if any?

3rd and 4th grade, and 11th grade English 

Why teaching? What or who inspired you to be a teacher?

Even though my mom always tried to convince me not to, I knew it was my calling.  I had a handful of great teachers throughout my schooling and I always wanted to make sure students felt the way they made me feel- valued. 

Was teaching your first choice in career? If not, what else did you consider?

Yes! If I didn’t do teaching I would probably work in pediatric nursing or the NICU in a hospital. However, I did not want to have too much college debt and was too impatient to go to school for 8+ years. 

Have you thought about changing careers since becoming a teacher?

Many times. I’ve thought about how much easier it would be to have a “desk job”- the type where I could clock in, do things, and clock out. Being a teacher, I NEVER actually “clock out”.  From grading papers at home to researching best practices to worrying about certain student who I know won’t have a meal again until they return to school at 7am tomorrow. Planning, revising, emailing…it’s a part of every evening at home. Many people get to clock in and out, going home with no worries and nothing to be done before they clock back in the next day. I’ve considered medical coding, accounting, customer service, or for a nonprofit doing fundraising.

What was your college major and how has it helped in your teaching career?

I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education K-6th grade with a Reading K-12 and ESOL K-12 endorsements. The classes really taught me how to handle students, parents, lesson plans, everything imaginable.  I had a few professors who truly knew what teaching was- and that’s NOT standardized testing or grades in a computer. 

What is your favorite part about being a teacher?

My favorite part of being a teacher is helping students realize their potential. Yeah, lesson plans and standards are great. I can see their growth in reading skill, comprehension, fluency, grammar, lexile level, and all that great stuff.  But what I like best is to see their personal growth and accomplishments. I like to see the smile when they finally get the grade they desire. The look of relief when they finally understand the concept we are working on. The way their eyes light up with pride when they turn in their best work, and they are acknowledged for it.

The best lessons are the ones my students teach me. 

What is your least favorite?

My least favorite part about being a teacher is when students have problems I can’t fix.   

I can’t fix how much their parents pay attention to them. I can’t fix that they got no sleep because they are stressed over a history test. I can’t fix that mom and dad just got divorced. I can’t fix that their little brother was just diagnosed with cancer. I can’t fix that their grandma just passed away. I can’t fix that the only food they eat is the free breakfast and lunch at school. I can’t fix that they are insecure about their height, weight, acne, clothing, hair, etc.  

What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher?

(Above) 

What are your goals for your students?

To improve. I don’t care where you started and where you ended, as long as you improved. This does not look the same for all students. It hardly EVER looks the same. One student may strive to get straight A’s, one may strive to get at least all C’s.  Neither student is better than the other.  

What do you want your students to remember about you as a teacher?

That I was there for them when they needed me. 

How do you spend your school breaks?

I spend time with my family.

Give your best advice for someone who may be thinking about a career in teaching.

Find your niche.  I thought all I wanted to do was elementary school. I was dead set on it. I was given the opportunity to do high school and took it. I’ll never go back.  

Parents. Communicate with parents, especially for the student accomplishments. I have a few students who truly struggle. The parents, I’m sure, receive emails from most of their teachers about failing, behaviors, etc. I always like to be the one who send the email such as, “Good Afternoon, Mrs. ___, I just wanted to let you know that ___ scored 85% on his vocabulary quiz today! Have a great weekend.” 

Any fun or favorite story you want to share?

Jennifer Downes: Teacher Appreciation Spotlight Jennifer Downes: Teacher Appreciation Spotlight

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