This video was originally published by our partners at iteach, a part of our parent company K12 Coalition, on June 28, 2023.
Jessika Collins was having an average day managing the emergency department at the hospital where she worked when she heard from one of her teacher friends that many Science positions had opened up in her local school district. Ms. Collins started filling out the application and got sidetracked. Later that day, she received a call from the school district to follow up on her partially completed application to see if she wanted to come in to interview. After shadowing classes, Ms. Collins was hired as a 7th and 8th-grade Science teacher at Plaza Park International Prep Academy in Evansville, Indiana.
Why Ms. Collins Decided She Wanted to Teach
After having various jobs in the Science field, Ms. Collins wasn’t feeling fulfilled.
“I worked in a research lab for a little while, which I thought was what I wanted to do with my life. Then I was a manager in an emergency department at a hospital, and I also didn’t find that to be very fulfilling. So when I was thinking about careers I could stick with long-term, teaching kept coming up again for me. And naturally, I wanted to give it a try.”
How Her Journey Led to iteach
When Ms. Collins started seriously thinking about pursuing teaching as a career, she began looking for ways to make her desire to teach a reality. She searched the Indiana Department of Education‘s website for accredited programs and found iteach.
“iteach resonated with me because I already have a graduate degree. There was no incentive for me to return to school and get a whole new degree. I just needed the pedagogy to go with it.”
The Benefits of iteach for Parents
Ms. Collins is a mom of two and was looking for a program that would provide flexibility in coursework, so iteach’s asynchronous platform made it a perfect fit.
“In addition to teaching, lesson planning, and grading papers, I have two kids under two, so the flow of my life is a little hectic. I cannot commit to attending class every week because I need to find childcare.”
iteach’s online coursework allows her to complete her assignments when she has the time and the mental capacity to focus. She can take as long as she needs on something without feeling rushed to study for a quiz or complete assignments.
“I’m very happy this program exists, especially for career changers who cannot take that time with families and other commitments.”
Support from Teaching Channel and iteach Supervisors
“I loved having access to the Teaching Channel video library,” said Ms. Collins.
“Since it’s just been so long since I’ve been in a middle school environment, I had no idea what to expect. So watching the videos on Teaching Channel and seeing the different classroom cultures was so helpful and I was able to pick and choose things from the videos that I felt would be really helpful for my kids and for my teaching style.”
In her first year of teaching, there were many little things that Ms. Collins didn’t foresee having to think about, like her classroom culture and how to address students and answer questions. All of these considerations were addressed completely through iteach coursework and access to the Teaching Channel video library in a very clear way.
“The iteach professors are very helpful. They’re available to answer questions when I need them, and they give very detailed comments and feedback on what could be better. The things that I’m learning in the modules are helpful when making my lesson plans and thinking about my teaching style.”
“I have received positive feedback too, which is just so encouraging in your first year of teaching because that imposter syndrome is so real that first year. Getting that positive encouragement has been really important to me emotionally, to know that I’m on the right track and doing the right things to be a good educator.”
What Ms. Collins Enjoys About Teaching
When asked what she enjoys most about teaching, Ms. Collins replied, “I enjoy the majority of my job. There are hard days. There are hard days in every job, though. I think what’s different about this job than any other career I’ve previously pursued is I get to be creative every day. Every day I get to decide what I’m doing in the room. With Science, it can be so fun doing the labs, going outside, and having the freedom to direct my students to master whatever standard we’re working on.”
One of her favorite parts of the job is the relationships she forms with her students and learning about their lives. She has many English learners in her classroom, so she learns about their home cultures and bonds with them.
“You get to be your own boss, essentially, because you’re deciding what is going on in the classroom and what’s being graded and what’s important.”
“When I first started this job, something that I wasn’t expecting was, at the end of the day, my face would hurt from smiling so much. These kids just make you smile, and they’re so caring too. You can really tell when that relationship’s developed. When they come up to you and ask you how your day is going or if you had to miss a day, they’ll come by in the morning and ask where you were yesterday and tell you that they really missed you. So it’s very fulfilling in ways my other jobs could never have been. They never could have reached that level of fulfillment.”
What Encourages Ms. Collins to Stay in the Classroom
“Honestly, I’m just really enjoying it. It’s fun. It is creative. I’m free to pick whatever we do that day. If I wake up and feel like we’re gonna do a lab today, then we’re going to do a lab. I’ve never had that freedom before. As a manager, it was meetings, meetings, meetings, making the schedule, finding coverage for people who call out. So when I was a manager, I was still my own boss, but I was still being pulled in all these directions and not feeling fulfilled in the work because it was a lot of computer work and admin work. While working in the lab as a researcher, I was not getting that social aspect. I’m sitting in a lab by myself, running experiments, getting discouraged when they’re not working. I wasn’t getting that fulfillment where I felt like I was contributing to something bigger than myself.”
“I’m just excited to come here every day and see the kids. I’ve made so many good relationships with them. Some of them I have in seventh grade now, so I will have them again next year. And I’m just so excited about seeing them grow up like that. I’ve just made so many positive memories.”
“I can’t see myself stopping now, especially now that I know what I’m doing. And that’s just going to continue to grow.”
Something Ms. Collins wishes she was told before starting in the classroom is that the kids don’t know that you haven’t taught before.
“[To them], you’re just Ms. Collins, and you’ve always been a teacher, and you always will be a teacher, and you don’t have a life outside of home. They think this is my teacher. This is what she’s telling me to do today, so I’m going to do it.”
Support from Fellow Educators
Ms. Collins wants to make people aware that you will run into situations where administration support is vital. Students will have behavioral issues that you need to address. She expected that if she built a relationship with her students, she would never have a problem, but that is not always the case.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have a very supportive administration to support me dealing with those issues.”
“I’ve also been very lucky to have other supportive teachers. It’s not just the administration of the school that is supportive. It’s like an environment, a culture at this school that’s very helpful. I eat lunch with the other eighth-grade teachers every day. I’m able to get advice from them. And then with the seventh-grade teachers, during one of my planning periods, we all get together and talk, and they’ve been so helpful in answering my questions and even giving me perspective on teaching at other schools.”
What the 2023-24 School Year Has in Store
Since Ms. Collins didn’t start teaching until the school year already started, she is thrilled to set her classroom expectations from day one next Fall. When she entered the classroom in the Fall of 2022, the students had already undergone so many changes and weren’t sure if she would stay as their teacher. She reassured them that she was there to stay and immediately started thinking about what she could accomplish in the classroom, starting on day one.
“I am very excited for next school year because I can actually go back to the first day of school modules and set up a classroom culture and set the expectations and conduct activities I learned through iteach curriculum and Teaching Channel videos. Since I was already inheriting a classroom environment, it was kind of hard to break those habits once they had already been set.”
Thank you for all you do for your students, Ms. Collins! We are thankful to have been part of your teaching story.
iteach is a competency-based educator preparation program helping to fill the void the nation faces with the unprecedented teacher shortage. iteach enables paraprofessionals, substitute teachers, and others seeking to become teachers to get the affordable, time-saving education they need to become licensed. Their program combines the convenience of online learning with a full year of face-to-face mentorship during a teaching residency. Notably, iteach is the only non-university educator preparation program to achieve accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).