New Moffat County teacher as excited about learning as students
Editors Note: Our popular series of interviews with Moffat County educators continues with an installment from Craig Middle School.
CRAIG — Teacher training instilled a love of learning in one of Moffat County’s newest teachers, and now, she works hard to find ways to share her passion with her students.
“During graduate school when I started my teaching degree, I realized I had a true passion for education. It was the first time I started enjoying school,” said Craig Middle School English language Teacher Jessie (McConnell) Matthews. “I loved the idea of being able to make a difference in education, instilling the love of learning in students as much as I could.”
Known as Ms. McConnell to her students, she was recently married to Anthony Matthews. She also shares her home with a yellow Labrador retriever named Boone.
“Outside of my education life, I am an avid skier, fly fisher, bird hunter and hiker.”
In this interview, Matthews describes how her parents influenced her career choice, how she works to engage students in the classroom and big plans she has for her own education.
Craig Press: Who most influenced you to become an educator, and how did that person influence you?
Jessie Matthews: My parents encouraged me to look into education and teaching as a career. I always loved working with children but never liked school myself until graduate school. When trying to decide what I wanted to do after graduating from college, my parents encouraged me to consider teaching, as they explained I was always excited and passionate about what I did with children and how that was the essence of teaching.
CP: What methods do you use to present material to your students?
Matthews: In my classroom, I try to limit time spent on lecturing by increasing the time for students to discover the meaning of concepts. Coming from someone who has a short attention span and has a hard time sitting still, I have a difficult time expecting my students to do so.
By developing a student-centered learning environment, students have a choice, ability to collaborate with peers, and can express their own interests. Methods used in class are the use of technology, modeling how to complete assignments, allowing choice in how to complete tasks, time for practice and taking risks and ability to express their understanding in numerous different ways.
I love learning and finding new ways to develop learning environments that create higher level thinking while engaging students.
CP: If your greatest supporter were in the room with us today, what five words would he or she use to describe you as a person, a teacher or a colleague?
Matthews: I am dedicated, caring, creative, progressive (think out of the box) and persevere.
CP: In your experience, what is the most challenging part of your role as an educator and how have you met that challenge?
Matthews: The most challenging part of being an educator is realizing that I can’t do it all, as much as I strive to and want to. I would love to help every single student, individually, meeting every single need in the classroom. I have to accept the fact that they have many more years of school and life ahead, and I can’t do everything for them in one year.
CP: What have you read recently that led you to change your approach to your work?
Matthews: I am currently in school myself, so I have been reading about different theories of education and teaching methods that go with the theories. This has led me to see the benefits of different types of theories and make a blended approach that engages students, allowing them to take ownership and initiative in their learning.
CP: How are you involved in the community outside school?
Matthews: Outside of school, I try to make it to as many student events as I can, such as sporting events, band recitals and choir performances.
CP: If a visitor came to your classroom/office and took a photo, what would they see in that photo?
Matthews: If a photo was taken of my class, it would portray students collaboratively working together, displaying flexibility through the classroom, resources scattered across the walls, students engaged in learning, utilizing devices and resources around them. The classroom would be inviting, where students can openly work together, take risks and build upon their understanding.
CP: What is one fun fact about you?
Matthews: I am working on receiving a doctorate of education in curriculum and instruction, with a focus in gifted education from the University of Denver. It is a fun challenge that keeps me on my toes, allowing me to apply my learning directly to my class and career. I have also illustrated a children’s book that my husband wrote.
CP: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Matthews: Education is a place where students can thrive, increasing their understanding and gaining the ability to make differences in their community and world.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.