Our February School Spotlight is on Jessica Reagle, a Learning Impaired Moderate/Severe teacher at Brewster Middle School. Reagle has been at BMS since 2011 in the same classroom.
In 2017, she was named the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Teacher of the Year. She also coaches cheerleading. Reagle believes in empathy and the continuing evolution of teaching.
Q. What encouraged you to pursue your job as an educator?
A. I believe my place and purpose on this Earth is to teach. … When my younger brother was born, he was missing a chamber of his heart and was diagnosed as intellectually disabled. Recognizing and appreciating different abilities in all people, not seeing disabilities, were our family’s normal. Throughout college and my early twenties, I coached a variety of Special Olympics sports and became extremely involved with the adapted physical activity community on campus and in my hometown. … I continued my work with Special Olympics when I moved to the area and became the local coordinator for the White Oak River Special Olympics program for four years, working alongside my husband who was a coach.
Q. What encouraged you to pursue education within your specific age level/curriculum?
A. In high school, I became very close with one girl in particular, Alyssa, who is an extremely deep person who also has a diagnosis of Down syndrome. I am thankful for the trips to the movies and dinners with her and my brother and our discussions of their feelings and opinions of a variety of topics, to include what it is like to be diagnosed with a disability. … Through my work in the classroom, I hope to be someone who is kind, compassionate and facilitating independence. … I feel an indescribable amount of pride when a student, who was too scared to enter a school building independently for years, slowly begins to enter with less and less prompting and preparation. … The many aspects of education, from academics to life/social skills, are the framework to success for our students. Educating in a world where there are no disabilities and only different abilities is the ultimate impact I wish to make.
Q. What is your main education philosophy?
A. Teaching is constantly evolving. Every single person has the ability to learn and everyone deserves the opportunity to flourish. I believe to be the most effective teacher possible I must be educated in a multitude of methodologies. It is my responsibility to ensure all students make growth and receive a meaningful education. I have strived to consistently advocate for the inclusion of the moderate/severe population in all aspects of school activities that are appropriate for each student’s ability level. Learning needs to be fun and engaging for students to internalize information. I strive to be as creative as possible and interweave lessons in different and exciting ways. Constant reflection and diligent data are what drives the atmosphere in my classroom.
Q. What is a lesson you have learned from your students?
A. I have learned to be flexible and that no one is disabled. Everyone has the ability, but it takes effort on behalf of the teacher or adult working with the student to unlock his or her potential.
Q. What is your favorite part of being an educator?
A. The opportunity to help create meaningful programs for our students. It is important to me that our students’ programs are unique to each of them.
Q. What advice would you give to upcoming/new educators?
A. Keep the students first. We are all aware of the politics and challenges within education systems. If you are advocating for your students’ best interests and have the background knowledge necessary to make educated and informed decisions for them, fight with all you have to make sure they get what they need, regardless of anything else.
Q. What are three words that would describe your life outside of the classroom? (hobbies, interests, etc.)
A. Family, dance and fulfilled.
Q. What is a favorite memory from your teaching career?
A. Choosing just one memory is very difficult. Recently, a parent sent me a message that her eighth grader picked up a book at home and read the entire thing front to back for the first time in his life. He had an amazing year of growth and that was a huge milestone. I was extremely proud of him.
Q. What advice would you give to a parent of a middle-schooler?
A. I think the most difficult transition for any parent is the one from fifth to sixth grade. With this in mind, I would want them to know that our goal for the kids is for them to be as independent as possible and although sometimes difficult, this is the time to really support them and encourage them to be responsible and accountable for their choices.
Q. What changes would you like to see implemented in the school system within the next five years?
A. I think we already do a lot to support inclusivity, but I would really like to see even more opportunities.
Q. What are the biggest challenges you face as an educator in a military town?
A. The biggest challenge is definitely when students leave. I often have mine for multiple years in a row and become very close to the students and their families. It is just gut wrenching to see them leave.
If you know of a local educator, administrator or school employee who should be featured in a School Spotlight, e-mail Pat Gruner at firstname.lastname@example.org.