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Jessica Church, 2nd Grade Teacher and Instructional Team Leader, Jeffers Hill Elementary School

December 6th, 2017

Jeffers Hill Elementary School teacher Jessica Church has dedicated her life to education. She’s a firm believer in a growth mindset, encouraging her students to develop skills and confidence throughout the year. At the 2nd grade level, she feels she’s found a good balance of shaping kids’ independence and helping them discover their love of learning at a young age.

Church collaborates with her Jeffers Hill co-workers to develop differentiated lesson plans that meet the needs and abilities of all her 19 students. One new initiative is her writer’s workshop, where students can work at their own pace on self-selected, genre-specific projects throughout the year. On top of her teaching, she also serves as an instructional team leader, acting as the liaison between the 2nd grade team and school administration.

A particular focus for Church has been guided reading, where she supports students in small groups to read challenging texts. Last year she was part of the first HCPSS Guided Reading Leadership Cohort, and she returned this year for the second level to serve as a model classroom in Howard County. Church says she enjoys teaching reading because it’s “the time of day I get to know my kids the best and learn what they’re interested in through the books they’re into or connections they make.”

Church has demonstrated her leadership in additional school and volunteer activities. She’s a member of the PBIS committee, which has supported her in building positive relationships with her students. She has also served as an assistant coach for Girls on the Run of Central Maryland, and an AmeriCorps volunteer for special events and lesson planning.

Church originally entered the education field at the secondary level. She graduated with a bachelor’s in history with the idea she’d teach high school Social Studies. But after serving as a college advisor to low income high school students, she decided she could make more of an impact by working with younger students. When her husband took a job in Maryland, she went back for an accelerated master’s in elementary education. She joined HCPSS through a graduate internship placement, and ended up subbing at Jeffers Hill frequently. A 2nd grade position opened up at the school, where she’s been ever since.

Jeffers Hill Assistant Principal Brian Vanisko describes Church as “a great team player. She’s somebody who’s willing to share knowledge with others and lead by example. She goes in and does whatever needs to be done but is also willing to take direction and give direction when needed. She is as passionate and caring to students and parents as she is with her co-workers.”

Indeed, Church loves the collaborative nature of teaching, saying: “In terms of the profession, I like that you’re not on your own. We all have these kids’ best interest at heart.” She added, “I can’t imagine teaching at another school. The people at Jeffers Hill are my extended family.”