Name: Jessica Watrous
Position: Sixth-grade teacher at Dora Erickson Elementary School
Years experience: First full year teaching at Dora Erickson
What made you want to become a teacher?
I had a really good experience with a high school teacher, she was one of the first people to really show confidence in me, and I hoped to share that with someone else. I really doubted that I'd be able (to do that work) for a long time until I became a paraprofessional.
How has going from a paraprofessional to a full-time teacher affected your approach to your classroom?
Our paras are amazing, and they don't get enough credit. In the school I'm at, there's a large demographic of kids who have some home struggles. Working with struggling kids in reading and math has helped me find new ways to step outside and address the larger issues affecting their learning.
The district is considering dropping its mask mandate and leaving the requirement to the discretion of teachers. What are your thoughts on that approach?
I want masks in my class regardless. I think that based on what's happening, I don't feel comfortable taking our foot off the brake yet. ... It's fine that we have people who personally disagree, but if we don't have a clear guideline, it's going to be up for interpretation, and people interpret things very differently.
Has your level of concern changed since you and many other teachers in District 91 have received the COVID-19 vaccine?
There is a certain degree of lower anxiety on my plate, but we still don't have all the answers. Science is one area where you learn as you go, and we don't know everything about the virus. I'm not personally prepared to stop wearing a mask, and I'm still going to do all of those mitigation strategies.
What is the best advice you've received about your job?
I'm 48, which is fairly old to start a career change. Some of the best advice I got from other teachers is to remember why I chose this job. I chose this job because I care about these kids, and every teacher I work with has a genuine concern and affection for these kids.