Jessica Fuentes at five was very similar to how she is today, twenty years later. She may have been a pretend teacher scribbling on a notepad instead of actually planning lessons and grading papers, but she was just as passionate back then as she is today about helping young people develop a love for learning.
A New Jersey native, Jessica earned a bachelor’s degree from Winthrop University and currently teaches Spanish to middle school students at Dutchman Creek Middle School in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Currently in her third year of teaching, Jessica fills many other roles at her school outside of the classroom. In addition to being a sponsor of the school’s Spanish club, she is also a mentor to The Girls Group, a program in which female faculty and staff members serve as mentors to young women to help them become active leaders in their community. As a foreign language teacher, Jessica’s passion for non-native English speakers has also led her to initiate an adult-focused ESOL program that will help parents to be able to communicate with their student’s teachers and participate in their child’s education with confidence.
As a young teacher, Jessica acknowledges that finding balance can often be tough, especially because she holds so many responsibilities aside from teaching itself. While she admits that students can be intimidating at times, she also knows that they need strong role models in the classroom. She encourages other young people who may be considering a career as an educator to have confidence in their ability to make a difference and change the lives of even the most reluctant learners. “For every ‘bad’ day you will have, you will have many more ‘amazing’ days when you will be filled with joy and satisfaction [because] you have chosen a great career,” she shares.Jessica’s unbridled enthusiasm for making her classroom an exciting place to be also influences the choices she makes regarding fashion. When asked to describe their teacher’s style, the words Jessica’s students generated included “classy, sophisticated, and sassy.” She knows that her students pay attention to the way that she presents herself each day, so she strives to show them that she doesn’t take her job as their teacher lightly by dressing professionally but also allowing her fun personality to shine through. Just as she strives to make content more relevant to their lives by using technology and engaging activities, she wants her students to see through her that teachers are anything but boring and dry.
Saying that Jessica is obsessed with fashion may be an understatement, but her hectic schedule doesn’t allow her much time to deliberate over outfit choices each morning, so she puts together each outfit the evening before she wears it to school. A fan of stores like Nordstrom, Express, and Aldo, her favorite teaching outfit consists of a classy dress and a unique pair of shoes. A self-proclaimed “heel addict,” Jessica loves how effortlessly chic dresses are, and she appreciates how the perfect frock allows her to show off whatever her stylish shoe choice of the day may be. She admits that even on days when she is allowed to wear jeans to work, she still pairs them with edgy heels to add a touch of flair to her look.
Despite the busy nature of her life, Jessica whole-heartedly says that she loves what she does and wouldn’t change anything about her life. Her next goal? She would like to earn a doctorate degree by her thirtieth birthday. It may be a high aspiration, but there’s no doubt that Jessica’s students will be referring to her as “Dr. Fuentes” in no time.
If Jessica’s story has inspired you, please take a moment to read about her students’ latest endeavor in her own words:
“I take students abroad to experience a new culture and have plenty of opportunities to use what they have learned in the classroom. This summer, I will be taking my students to London, Paris, and Madrid. I know many students want to go, but not everyone can afford it, so we are trying to reach out to the community and raise money for our students to be able to have this once in a lifetime experience because many of our students will never get to leave the country. If anyone would be interested in donating to our cultural trip, please feel free to contact me at JFuentes@rhmail.org. Please remember that even the smallest amount can make a difference.”
photo courtesy: Jessica Fuentes