Next up in our SHE Educates series is Jessica Schwendimann. Jessica is a graduate assistant and student at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Jessica is working towards a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction while also earning her teaching license for grades K-5. She is a hand lettering artist, cat lover, and school supply addict. You can find her at @littlebirdlettering on Instagram and Facebook!
Name: Jessica Schwendimann
School: Middle Tennessee State University
Major: Curriculum and Instruction
Who are you, where are you from, what are you in school for?
Hello! My name is Jessica Schwendimann, and I have lived in Murfreesboro, Tennessee since kindergarten. I’m 26 years old, and currently in my second year and second to last semester of graduate school, where I am working towards my K-5 teaching license as well as a masters in Curriculum and Instruction.
How did you choose your major? What are you interested in doing after graduation?
After graduating in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, I faced the existential question that many of us encounter post graduation: What Next? I honestly did not have a clue what I wanted to do, and even though I was passionate about several things at the time, none of them felt “right”.
I had worked for an after school program all through undergrad, and then was hired on as a full-time educational assistant in an integrated preschool classroom in 2015. I have always loved working with children, especially in an educational setting, but becoming a teacher had always been a fleeting thought rather than a true interest. Instead, I planned on going back to school and becoming a guidance counselor or school social worker, even though the passion for either of those jobs was never there.
Fast forward to March of 2017. I was standing in the hallway of the elementary school I was working in at the time, waiting to pick up my students from music class. As I stood there, I heard voices of teachers in the neighboring classrooms and saw students holding hands and laughing as they made their way to the gymnasium. In that small, seemingly insignificant moment, I became suddenly aware of the path I was meant to take in life. I was meant to be a teacher. I became suddenly aware of the path I was meant to take in life. I was meant to be a teacher.
As soon as I made this realization, I researched how to make my dreams a reality and hit the ground running. I took the Millers Analogy Test, applied to my graduate program at MTSU, and started my first semester in May of 2017. Now I’m in my fourth semester, working as a graduate assistant, tutoring third graders twice a week, and absolutely thriving!
What has been your experience as a student at your school and in your chosen major/field?
Presently, I can not say enough positive things about this program. I feel so supported by my professors, and I’ve already had some wonderful professional experiences that will not only enhance my resume, but my overall future career as an elementary school teacher. My program for undergrad was so big that I never really felt a true connection with anyone else on campus, but being here and getting to work with the same cohort of students has really given me that “college” experience that I missed out on in the past.
What do you love most about being in school? What do you find the most challenging?
Aside from academics, I have made so many close friends-two of which will be bridesmaids in my wedding next year! Going back to school was hands down the best decision I have ever made for myself. At first, I was overwhelmed with the amount of time it would take to earn my degree, but these past few semesters have absolutely flown by, and having such a big goal and dream to work towards has been incredibly fulfilling. having such a big goal and dream to work towards has been incredibly fulfilling.
Working and going to school full time last semester was definitely challenging, but the fact that I am so passionate about my future career made my three nights a week plus weekend classes worth it. I was eating, sleeping, and breathing early childhood education from January to April; I literally thought about it and worked on my assignments 24/7, but I was incredibly motivated to do so. I already get emotional just thinking about graduation next Fall, which only goes to show what a great experience I’ve had thus far.
What do you wish you had known before starting school? What would you tell other SHEs going into your major or school?
Before going back to school, I figured I would learn exactly what I needed to in order to teach elementary students. I bought flashcards, highlighters, pens, pencils, notebook paper, folders, binders, etc. (I also really happen to love school supplies, y’all, don’t judge me) in preparation of the start of my first semester. Now that I’m over half-way through my program, I know that the ideas and concepts that I’ve been taught thus far have been very abstract; things that can’t be studied or memorized. The assignments are more reflection based, and are often centered around group work, which I used to really dislike. However, now I know the people in my program so well, group work is a breeze and much more enjoyable than doing assignments independently.
We need teachers who encourage young girls in math and science… We need teachers who don’t automatically pigeon hole minorities based on stereotypes, whether they be race, gender, religion, or socioeconomic status, etc.Finally, if you’re reading this and thinking about going back to school to become a teacher, DO IT! The world needs passionate teachers who are knowledgeable about the world and all of its inequalities and injustices. We need teachers who encourage young girls in math and science just as much as they encourage young boys. We need teachers who don’t automatically pigeon hole minorities based on stereotypes, whether they be race, gender, religion, or socioeconomic status, etc. Finally, the world needs teachers who expect and demand the very best work out of each and every student who enters his or her classroom, as well as nurture, love, and serve as an advocate for them and their families. That is what it truly means to be a teacher; not test scores, a Pinterest worthy classroom, or ground breaking curricular activities.
As George Eliot famously stated, “It is never too late to be who you might have been”. If you’re considering going back to school, or starting school in general, don’t let time make the decision for you. Time will pass whether you actively work towards something or not, so do yourself a favor and follow your heart.