Moving from journalism to teaching, staying in valley | PostIndependent.com

Moving from journalism to teaching, staying in valley

Jessica Carter
jcarter@postindependent.com
Jessica Carter
Chelsea Self |

“You must be nuts.”

That’s what I keep hearing from friends, colleagues and acquaintances. I am leaving journalism to become a middle school teacher. What does this mean for the Post Independent? Once again, the news staff is losing a Millennial. I am not leaving to wander around Mexico or to take a different journalism job.

Instead, I am changing career paths at 23 years old (almost 24). That may seem crazy, but I am not the “typical” 23-year-old. I graduated from high school with an associate of arts degree. I then attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, to pursue a bachelor’s in English and a minor in journalism. As I started writing for the campus newspaper and magazine, that passion grew, and I decided to double major. After I had my bachelor’s, the plan was to get my secondary education certificate to teach English.

When it was time to graduate I was torn. Do I become a teacher or a journalist? At 21 years old, that was a tough decision.

I couldn’t decide, so I applied for the master’s in teaching program at Western and for the summer intern position at Trail Runner Magazine in Carbondale.

I didn’t think I would be chosen to intern at Trail Runner, so I figured I would begin the teaching program that fall.

But shortly after I applied for the internship, I found out I was chosen. I was ecstatic. My dream to intern at my favorite magazine became a reality.

I was excited to explore the beautiful trails of the Roaring Fork Valley. Everyone told me that going from sea level to altitude was going to be difficult. I didn’t let that stop me. Within the first couple of weeks I had run and summited Sopris twice. I couldn’t get enough of it.

I have been here a little more than two years, and I do not plan on leaving the valley.

WHY MIDDLE SCHOOL?

I have been asked why I want to be a middle school teacher more times than I can count.

I have always known that I wanted to be a teacher. On my dad’s side of the family, my aunt, uncle and grandparents were all teachers. Whenever we were together I would ask them to tell me about teaching. I heard both horror stories and stories of inspiration. Then in seventh grade I was inspired by my teacher to pursue a career in teaching. I really enjoyed the way she taught, her inspiration and her passion for kids and English language arts. I decided I wanted to be just like her.

It’s true that I’m entering a field where 17 percent of new teachers leave within the first five years, according to a study by the U.S. Department for Educational Statistics. Teaching is demanding. The hours are long. The work can be frustrating and difficult.

But it is an amazing field, too. It is wonderful to watch a struggling student suddenly experience the “aha” moment, when confusing new skills or concepts suddenly become clear. During my pre-internship at Glenwood Springs Middle School one of my students gave me a candy cane full of M&Ms, and outside of it there was a sticky note that said, “To the great teacher that always helps me.” This is just one example of why I want to become a teacher.

Every day, as I greet those faces coming into my door — some arriving with smiles, some looking serious, some with dark circles caused by allergies or poor sleep or worries — I remember that for the next class period, all of those faces are counting on me to help them become better readers, writers, listeners, speakers, and thinkers. It is a huge responsibility.

My time at the PI

My first night at the PI, I was pregnant and my water broke. At first I didn’t believe it since I wasn’t due for another month. I guess the stress of learning the PI system scared the baby right out of me.

The next day Will Grandbois, now our Arts & Entertainment editor, asked where I was. When Editor Randy Essex said, “She is having a baby,” Grandbois was in shock. Like him, most of the staff had no idea I was even pregnant.

After my return, I wrote a couple articles about Carbondale’s Dave Clark, who qualified for the Ironman World Championships and another on Royle Stillman, a former professional baseball player who lives in Glenwood and was inducted into the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame.

Most recently I wrote an article on whitewater raft guide Solomon Liston. I wish I would have written more, but having a small child at home and attending Colorado Mesa University to attain my teaching certificate made it difficult.

On the bright side, I got to design the paper five nights a week until I went to part time. I especially will miss designing the front pages with bold double-deck headlines and my design partner Charlie Wertheim.

Essex has tried to change my mind about becoming a teacher, but he also has seen the smile teaching has put on my face.

I have enjoyed the last year and a half as a PI page designer/copy editor. I will truly miss this job, but I am thrilled to continue my student teaching with Beth Ullom at GSMS. I know teaching is not easy, but I am ready to begin this new adventure as a middle school teacher.


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