Teacher Appreciation Week: Jessica Wells, Syracuse Latin
Published on 5/2/16
District News Syracuse Latin
For first graders in Jessica Wells’ classroom, each day begins with a morning meeting where students discuss the good things—both little and big—that are happening in their lives. That’s the key to starting the day off on the right foot, she said, along with sharing with students her expectations for the day ahead.
“I hold my students to high expectations. That’s very important,” she said. “But we’re also building a classroom community. That means making everyone feel safe, comfortable, allowing them to make mistakes and encouraging them to put themselves out there academically and socially. When students succeed at that, it makes me proud.”
Principal Kelly Manard said it’s this consistency that makes Ms. Wells an outstanding teacher. “When you walk into Ms. Wells’ classroom, you instantly feel a sense of calm,” she explained. “In fact, you will often hear classical music playing the background while students are reading or completing their work. Ms. Wells is meticulous about her lesson planning and has extensive knowledge of research-based instructional strategies to meet the individual needs of each of her students. She has motivated reluctant readers and writers to become active in classroom discussion, to take risks and to challenge themselves.”
Ms. Wells said that the support for teachers within the school is what makes it such a dream place to teach.
“All of the teachers here truly have the best interest of our students at heart,” she said. “And our principal is so supportive. She has created an environment where our new ideas are accepted. We’re really trusted to do what we do best, and that culture really helps us thrive. It really feels like a big happy family. Everyone here works really hard at that feeling because it trickles down to our students and the school community.”
That supportive environment, she said, also leads to student success… and is what keeps pushing her to be a better teacher.
“When the scholars grasp concepts, when they grow in any ability… that’s what makes me keep going as an educator and what makes me want to continue getting better at what I do. I’m constantly evaluating myself and how I can get better at meeting student needs.”
Collaboration is a huge part of that, she noted, explaining how observing other teachers and implementing blended learning and the techniques acquired as a Syra Fuse Fellow have taken her practice to a new level. Ms. Wells has embraced the use of technology in her classroom, as the first class to fully implement the use of iPads—using them to respond to questions and research new topics of interest.
“The things we’re doing now will really help make these kids college and career ready… from first grade on!” Ms. Wells exclaimed. “I’m always looking for ways to celebrate teachers and good teaching. It’s my goal to become a teacher leader so I can help support my colleagues and together, we can share and develop best practices.”
Thank you, Ms. Wells, for your commitment to Syracuse Latin students!