It took Jennifer Rodrigue five years to figure out she had abandoned her true passion and needed to get back to her roots. After two years in the classroom, Ms. Rodrigue left the teaching ranks for what she thought was a better job in the corporate world. It wasn’t. She had grown up with educators and realized she was missing her life’s calling. Her mother and grandfather were both teachers and school administrators and her mother became a professional role model for her. “I don’t think it’s something you learn. It’s in you,” the UVA third grade ELA teacher explained.
Ms. Rodrigue came to UVA three years ago admittedly excited and nervous after her hiatus from teaching. She had not taught in the online world but looked forward to rewarding experiences with her students and making a difference in their lives. “Not seeing them in person, I thought, would be hard,” Ms. Rodrigue offered. “And it took a while to figure out how to develop relationships through a computer screen,” she admitted. She’s adapted well by keeping up with technology that she says helps her work smarter and keeps her students excited to attend her classes. Ms. Rodrigue also brushes aside the notion the COVID-19 pandemic has been a hindrance since UVA is operating as usual in the online realm. She admits the pandemic did affect the face-to-face contact with fellow teachers since everyone is working from home. But they still collaborate in regular school-related sessions and have informal communication.
Ms. Rodrigue says she is constantly learning and tries to pass that trait on to her students. She also pushes them to learn from one another and take ownership by setting goals and reaching for them. “It’s a feeling of pride and joy when they say you taught me this,” Ms. Rodrigue exclaimed. “Seeing the little light bulbs go off and seeing how they’re proud of themselves is knowing I did my job and made a difference,” she said proudly.
Getting lost in a book is Ms. Rodrigue’s favorite hobby, but she confessed it’d taught her something she reinforces in her teaching. “I’ve seen a change in myself. I appreciate writing and being a better writer, she admitted. She’s also experienced a shift in where she sees herself in the coming years. Ms. Rodrigue is working on a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction focusing on reading. She wants to be a reading specialist where she’ll act as a coach for teachers as she continues to work with students. Part of the academic work for the advanced degree requires Ms. Rodrigue to observe what other teachers do. She finds it a great resource. “I borrow the best ideas other teachers have,” she admitted. It fits with her philosophy of constantly learning.