Getting to Know Grand Erie is a new weekly feature that puts the spotlight on one of the many Grand Erie staff members working towards the goal of Success for Every Student. The Q&A series brings the staff member into focus by sharing – in their own words – the lessons they’ve learned in leadership, teamwork, and perseverance. Do you know someone who should be featured? Let us know! 

Jessie Kingma
Elementary Teacher, Waterford Public School

Kingma_Jessie.jpgWhat’s the best part of your job?

Being in Kindergarten, I LOVE that I get to be the students’ first experience of school! I feel privileged that I get to set the tone for their educational journey. I am passionate about creating an environment that is welcoming, exciting, and engaging. Not only do I get to hang out with an amazingly fun group of kids all day, but I get to help them realize that they are capable of so much more than they know!

What was your first job, and what did it teach you?

My first job was at a local fast food restaurant called Willy’s Burger Stop. I started as the burger “dresser” when I was maybe 14. The job (and my boss) taught me to take pride in the little things. No matter if the task was to clean the vents, change the grease in the deep fryer, or chop several tubs of onions, there was value in what I was doing. Just like the restaurant, there are many responsibilities in the teaching profession that may not always be glamorous or easy but are important. To this day, I take great pride in doing my job well, no matter what the task is! 

What motivates you?

Kingma_Jessie-reading.jpgLike many educators, seeing students happy, excited, and learning is all the motivation I need. There is something about having a student walk into the classroom (or log on to a Teams meeting) with a big smile saying, “Good Morning Mrs. Kingma!” I must admit, however, it has also been the communication and feedback I have received from families that has been keeping me going since pivoting to remote learning. Receiving a simple “thank you” or “good job” email not only warms my heart but also provides me a little boost in energy I need to keep going!

What’s your favourite thing about working in Grand Erie?

My favourite thing about working in Grand Erie would have to be the people I have met and the connections I have made since starting! I was fortunate to be a part of the Laurier Brantford and Nipissing University Concurrent Education program. Right from my first year, I got to be in schools all over the Board, and was able to learn from some of the best teachers around. Since being offered my own contract 13 years ago, I have been lucky to work in a variety of schools in both Brant and Norfolk County, as well as in the city of Brantford. Professionally, I have found people I consider to be amazing mentors, and have also developed my own personal support network. Personally, I have become a part of a community and have developed lifelong friendships along the way! Grand Erie is full of spectacular people!

How does your role contribute to Success for Every Student?

Kingma_Jessie-drawing.jpgWhile I can talk about how my role as a ‘teacher’ contributes to the ‘Success for Every Student,’ I think it is important for me to highlight that it is truly a team effort. Being a part of the Kindergarten Program has meant that I have had the pleasure to work with an incredible Designated Early Childhood Educator, Stacey Mitchell! Together we have created an environment that allows students to be themselves while striving towards personal and academic goals. We both believe that it is important to have high expectations for all our students and we hold them to that standard. I also feel very fortunate to teach in the same community in which I live. I am very proud of the connections and relationships I have made with our students’ families. Simply said, we couldn’t do this without them (especially when learning from home)!

What’s a skill or talent you possess that might surprise people?

Oh my… I guess it would be that I can step dance?! Another more recent skill I have acquired is how to use video editing software. I wouldn’t say I’m proficient at it yet though. When we pivoted to distance learning last March, I decided to create different learning videos for my students. Now I know how to splice footage, add fun introductions, incorporate music, and so on.

Best advice you received?

Every child deserves a champion; an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be. While Rita Pierson did not share this with me personally, my principal showed us her TED Talk at a staff meeting and it has stuck with me ever since.

Best advice you have given?

Kingma_Jessie-kitchen.jpgComplaint without action is useless noise. This quote was posted on the wall of my Grade 12 English class. These are words I try to live by and offer to those around me. This ‘advice’ has helped me to have courageous conversations, to kick-start new adventures, and to think outside the box when finding solutions to my problems.

What’s been your most important lesson learned during the pandemic?

Not to take the face-to-face connection and time with my family for granted. I suppose I didn’t realize how much I relied on my family gatherings to feel grounded and at peace. During the summer months, we managed with a lot of outdoor visits and campfires. It just hasn’t been the same since the weather has changed. Having Christmas over zoom was hard for me. I cannot wait to be able to hug my parents and beat them at a game of cards!

What do you like to do outside of work?

Kingma_Jessie-Sadie.jpgWhen I’m not working, you can typically find me walking the trails (or the town) with my dog! I also love to play baseball, read, organize, journal, play cards and board games, binge watch crime shows with my husband, and just hang out with my friends and family. 

Photos by Grand Erie Communications

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