Champaign native Jessica Pitcher is right back where she started as a child: roaming the halls of a Champaign Unit 4 school. Only this time, Jessica is now the assistant principal at Kenwood Elementary. A divorced mother of four daughters ages 10, 9, 6, and 5 ( who attend Robeson Elementary, where she is a member of the PTA), Pitcher has made local headlines through her efforts to import science and technology into the public schools in 21st-century style. In her not-so-free time, she volunteers for the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation, spends time with friends, and has a passion for running.
See why we think Jessica Pitcher is a Chambana mom to know.
Q: Tell us about the upcoming CUSF spelling bee event and why we (grownups) should attend.
Saturday, November 9 is the 2nd Annual C-U Schools Foundation Adult Team Spelling Bee at the Urbana Civic Center. Teams comprised of three adults will battle it out to take home the coveted “Best of the Hive” trophy and the top three teams get to choose a school to receive PE Equipment.
• 1st place-$2,500 PE equipment provided by Kraft
• 2nd place-$1,000 gift certificate provided by Litania Sports Group
• 3rd place-$300 gift certificate provided by Polar
You don’t have to be a great speller to compete and we encourage spectators to purchase a ticket and come cheer on their teams. Dinner is provided and a cash bar is available. The C-U Schools Foundation supports all Champaign-Urbana public schools and this is a fun way to meet people in the community and enjoy an academic competition.
Registration information about the event can be found at: http://cuschoolsfoundation.org/events/bee/
2) How has CUSF impacted you as a teacher in the Champaign schools?
The C-U Schools Foundation made innovative education possible in my classroom at Jefferson Middle School. Over the years, I wrote and received a number of small and large grants that funded Lego Robotics Kits, webcams for stop-motion animation projects, and 3-D technology.
Beyond the classroom, being involved with CUSF has helped me make connections and gain support for the public schools through partnerships with local businesses and business people. Aside from the Spelling Bee, I also had the opportunity to work with the C-U Scholars program this past summer with Freshman Focus. A team of teachers from Unit 4 offered short seminars about computer programming using Etoys, combining my involvement with CUSF and my interest in technology.
Q: You recently made the transition from teacher to administrator – what has been most challenging for you?
For me, the shift from supporting students to supporting students by supporting adults has been the most challenging. One of the things that drew me into educational leadership was the possibility of increasing my sphere of influence and using my skills on a more macro-level. While teachers are very intentional in their work, this change in focus further clarified my intention. At the same time, it challenged me to navigate a new path to work to achieve goals. It has challenged me to communicate concisely and with purpose and to build capacity in my colleagues and allow them to build capacity in me.
I feel very fortunate to have been hired as Assistant Principal at Kenwood Elementary. Each day I learn another area of expertise that is contained within the staff in my building. This staff has taken me in, let me make mistakes, and supported my transition. Everytime I think I am putting in some long hours, I walk the building and realize how dedicated my colleagues are and I am inspired. So, yes, there are challenges, but I am part of a strong team willing to face them.
Q: Your efforts to bring technology into the schools have been highlighted in local media. Why are you passionate about the intersection of education and technology?
I am excited about the intersection between education and technology because I feel like we are on the threshold of seeing true integration. We constantly talk about ways we can use technology to engage students, create lifelong learners, and prepare students for a global economy. I can see education and our district moving in the direction where technology is not an add-on, but is seamlessly integrated in the classroom and curriculum fostering connections between students, families, teachers, and the larger community.
My new position at Kenwood is providing me opportunities to be a part of that change. Our building will undergo a renovation next year and begin embracing our mission of Technology and Literacy for the Community. Our vision is one of 1:1 computing for students K-5, with opportunities for computer programming, literacy, and outreach to the community. We have already begun by offering a computer class and devices for adults through a partnership with the University of Illinois and Professor Martin Wolske. We have also provided professional development for staff and ongoing training working with the Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE) program at the University of Illinois and Illini for Kids. I am looking forward to finding more partnerships in the community, growing our program, and expanding these opportunities beyond our school.
Q: Changing gears – What do your kids plan to dress up as this year?
My oldest two daughters are dressing up as police officers and, after much cajoling, the younger two are their prisoners. I just have to laugh because this is pretty much how every day looks in my house.
Q: What are your family’s favorite Halloween traditions?
Absolutely carving pumpkins. Each year my extended family gets together, I have 4 siblings, most with kids of their own. We put down newspapers and the adults work furiously to help bring to life whatever the kids have drawn. None of my girls are squeamish, so they dig right in cleaning out the seeds. We spend a ton of time sorting the seeds from the pumpkin guts so we can salt and roast them. The older girls are starting to wield their own carving tools and still have all their digits, so I would say they have been successful. When we are finished, we line them all up on the deck, light candles, and take pictures of another year’s creations.
Q: Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
It’s probably hard to believe in my profession, or if you ever meet me in person, but until about two years ago I was incredibly afraid of public speaking. I would actually have a physical reaction when speaking in front of an audience (hands and voice shaking, heart beating fast, loss of breath, ears ringing). I realized that that fear was keeping me from accomplishing my goals, so I spent two years saying yes to every public speaking engagement that came my way. Some were small, PTA meetings, staff development, and some were larger, speaking at the University of Illinois. It was really hard, but all worth it. I can’t say I am 100% confident every time I take the stage today, but the shakes are gone.
Jessica Pitcher was nominated to be a mom to know. Nominate a mom or dad to know today — contact us!