Spotlight: Jessica Major (LA '15)February 16, 2016
"Too many educators today are trying to deter people from teaching," says TAP Master Teacher Jessica Major (LA '15). Since becoming a Milken Educator, Jessica feels even more strongly that it's her responsibility to encourage students to consider careers in education. She received her Award at Port Allen Middle School on October 28, 2015.
Milken Family Foundation: How did you end up in education?
Jessica Major: I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was a young child. I spent all my free time playing school when I was growing up. I have a picture in my office of me playing school as a young girl. My dad gave it to me when I graduated college. He said he always knew I was going to be a teacher. I'm the first one in my extended family to become a teacher. I now have two younger sisters pursuing degrees in education.
MFF: What was your first job?
Jessica: When I was 15, my dad got me an after-school job at Tom's Potato Chips. His friends owned the business. My dad taught me to always ask my boss questions when I was unsure and not just assume. He also said when you go to work for someone you always give them your best everyday. Hard work pays off!
MFF: Who was your own most memorable teacher?
Jessica: Mrs. Tammy Seneca, who taught me 7th-grade science. She made science fun and found a way to motivate everyone to do their best. Life Science is such an abstract concept, but she made it come alive. When I became a teacher, I became her colleague. She is the Director of Educational Technology in our school district. She still has that same passion about education and helping others. I have had the privilege to work on many projects with her. She goes over and above her job responsibilities. She is all in to help teachers grow and students succeed.
MFF: Tell us about your first year of teaching.
Jessica: I loved it. Just like any first year, I was trying to find myself. I was the only person on campus teaching that grade and subject area. I didn’t have anyone to collaborate with. I found myself questioning everything I did. Student teaching does not prepare you for some of the situations you will encounter. I definitely know now that experience does matter. The more time spent teaching, the more life lessons you will learn.
MFF: You're in a TAP school. How has that affected your career as an educator?
Jessica: TAP has changed my life. It has armed me with the best instructional practices and tools to make decisions based on student work. I have a laser focus with every decision I make based on the needs of my students and what their work shows me. A month ago I was appointed acting principal of my TAP school. Being able to utilize these practices from an administration point of view has allowed me to set a tone that the students drive all our decisions. TAP has also taught me through its multiple career paths the need to build capacity within your faculty. I need to arm my staff with all the tools that I have, so they can make the best instructional decisions in their classrooms. I wouldn't have been appointed principal without TAP and its multiple career paths.
MFF: A student tells you he/she is thinking about a career in education. How do you convince him/her?
Jessica: Since I won the Milken Educator Award, I feel that it's my responsibility to speak proactively about all the positive parts of being a teacher. Too many educators today are trying to deter people from teaching. I always ask someone who wants to become a teacher: What does your heart tell you? Most people know if they want to be a teacher at a young age. I would discuss with them the many career paths available in education. You don’t have to be in the classroom for your entire career. What is your passion and how can you share that with others?
MFF: What impact do you think your Milken Educator Award presentation had on students at your school?
Jessica: I hope my students see that hard work pays off. You should always work hard in whatever career you choose.
MFF: What's your favorite time of the school day?
Jessica: I love all day. If I had to find one part of the day, I would say before school. I have a group of students who come to my office before school to explore with robots and study together. I enjoy being able to connect with them on a personal level. We discuss what they're reading, current events, our families.
MFF: If someone gave you a million dollars for your school, what would you do with it?
Jessica: I have a long list! I would focus on improvements that would help my students to achieve in the classroom.
MFF: When you retire (someday), what do you want your former students and colleagues to say about you?
Jessica: That I inspired them to want to always give their best. That I cared!
MFF: If you hadn't chosen a career in education, what would you be doing right now?
Jessica: I'd be a lawyer or a lobbyist.
MFF: Finish this sentence: "I know I'm succeeding as an educator when…"
Jessica: "...when student achievement increases."
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