Young Alumni Q & A: Jessica Teal

Jessica Teal holds green and gold balloons on the CSU campus.

Jessica Teal graduated cum laude from the Colorado State University College of Health and Human Sciences in the Spring of 2016 with a degree in family and consumer sciences. Teal is currently a family and consumer sciences teacher entering into her fifth year at Windsor High School. She has taught a plethora of courses including Interior Design, Fashion Design, Child Development, Life Management and Relationships. This upcoming year, she is looking forward to teaching Catering, Theatre and Costume Design, and Design Seminar as well. Teal thrives in the innovative environment within Windsor High School and greater Weld RE-4 School District and is always trying new things in her classroom to improve instruction and support students in developing their passions. Outside of the classroom, she is the Colorado Association of Career and Technical Education (CACTE) President-Elect. In this role, Jessica supports her fellow CTE instructors around the state and their divisions through conference planning and professional development, membership, and advocating for Colorado CTE needs. In her free time, Teal enjoys crafting, shopping, spending time with her family and friends, and her French Bulldog Louie. 

Describe your current position and some of the responsibilities that come with it.

In addition to the courses I listed above I am continuously attending CACTE and family and consumer sciences conferences to stay current on trends related to learning, design thinking, self-reflection and feedback, student-led learning, and meaningful integration of industry and community in the classroom. I also enjoy taking book studies provided through my district which have provided me with new learnings on grading more efficiently, infusing Google in the classroom, providing differentiation, etc. One of the most beneficial experiences I engaged in early on in my career was called the Teacher Expedition where I got to observe and collaborate with teachers at Rangeview Elementary and reflect on my experiences. I very much appreciate the collaborative learning atmosphere Weld RE-4 creates for staff and I enjoy learning from my colleagues!

Why did you decide to pursue your current career path?

I have always wanted to become a teacher since the age of seven. When entering high school, I met the family and consumer sciences department at Rocky Mountain High School and enjoyed the classes I took. Being part of the Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) chapter as the president helped me see the importance of what FCS courses taught and the unique leadership opportunities FCCLA provided. Through my experiences in FCCLA I developed my leadership philosophy, strengthened my professional presentation skills through competitive events, and built strong relationships with advisors I still work with today. I had a great relationship with all of my FCS teachers and I aspired to help future students through this career. Family and Consumer Sciences and CTE courses prepare students with the skills needed to be successful in their future careers, personal success, and building strong relationships in their lives. Through the quality experiences gained in a CTE classroom, students discover and develop their passions and engage in relevant work experience related to their passions. I love our students at WHS and what our classes bring to the culture of learning.

How has COVID-19 changed operations for your school and the education field, and how are you responding to it?

This past Spring, I appreciated how our district responded to providing remote learning for students and families. Our district’s priority to support family and student well-being and foster authentic learning experiences was evident. I had the opportunity to continue strengthening relationships with students I had this year as well as connect with new students that I had not had in my classes in a learning environment where students were self-reflecting on their strengths, building career portfolios, exploring their interests, and setting goals for their wellness. This process was self-paced and students received valuable written and verbal feedback from their teachers using Google Hangouts. This framework of remote learning was an amazing opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues in CTE as well as Physical Education, Health, and ESS.

I believe that rigorous and relevant learning experiences, valuable feedback, and student-led learning can still happen in remote, modified, and blended learning environments. At the state level, family and consumer sciences have an amazing support group of educators across the state providing resources for all of our pathways and building remote learning models to help us get started. Through our state director’s leadership, we are supported and provided updates weekly through town hall meetings. During this time, as educators, we can truly model growth mindset and resilience alongside our students and families. It is not easy and at times it can seem like walking into the unknown, but together we can overcome.

How have your education and experiences at CSU helped you in your career? Was there a faculty member in the College of Health and Human Sciences that inspired you the most?

My courses and the instructors within the College of Health and Human Sciences were the most memorable for me in my journey toward my career because of the support, creativity, and positive relationships I had in each of them. In my education courses, I appreciated the hands-on learning and constructive feedback I received to continue to do better as a learner and teacher. Most importantly, I appreciated getting into classrooms early and to begin building my network of colleagues. In my education courses, I always felt welcomed and was provided resources at all points of the program. By the time I graduated, I felt confident that I had a strong foundation to begin teaching at Windsor High School.

A faculty member that inspired me the most in my career was my academic adviser Dawn Mallette, associate professor in the School of Education. I had the pleasure of meeting Dawn Mallette in high school before starting at CSU. Dawn is a special person who has always made me feel welcomed since day one of meeting her. Dawn has a special way of identifying the strengths and passions of others and inspiring them to become FCS teachers early on and establishing life-long relationships with them. While at CSU, Dawn’s office was always open to talk with her, share laughs, and keep me updated on my progress. Dawn has always challenged me to try new things and was the main reason why I joined the Dean’s Leadership Council. Not only did I enjoy being a member of the council, but I was also inspired to give back by serving as the president in my senior year. Through the Dean’s Leadership Council I developed a strong understanding of what it means to lead and motivate versus manage, leverage the strengths of others, facilitate growth through challenges and give back to the community through servant leadership. Earlier this year, I was welcomed into the Executive Leadership Council for the college and am honored to be working with such a great group of alumni alongside Dean Lise Youngblade and the college. I am especially grateful for Director of Development Victoria Keller’s support and encouragement this past semester. Victoria has been awesome to connect and check-in with virtually during this time!

What advice do you have for students looking for a full-time job in your field?

The education field is so rewarding! Going into the field, keep an open mind, and share your authentic self. As an educator, you are always learning. Give yourself space for grace to try new things and “fail forward” – it’s okay! During my first year of teaching, I was building my foundation for all the courses I teach. By the second year, I gave myself grace to try new things because I realized the impact it had on myself and my students. As a learner myself, I saw confidence in myself to take risks, try again, and be receptive to feedback. For my students, it gave them a chance to take the lead on their learning, design new projects, be creative, and “fail forward” multiple times with me. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in your first few years or to have several mentors-everyone can learn from mentorship! Jump in and see where you can help develop your school’s culture and climate because you will develop new and lasting relationships with colleagues that will support you throughout your career and help you develop leadership. By joining my school’s Social Committee and Vision Leadership Team, I have felt supported and encouraged to develop my leadership in our WHS community. Through these experiences and the amazing administration team at WHS, I have begun my journey to complete my master’s degree and Principal Licensure program at Colorado State University. GO RAMS!

The major of family and consumer sciences is in the School of Education, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.