1st Grade Crew Teacher
Meet Ms. Jill!
Get to know all about Ms. Jill!
Jill was born in El Paso, Texas. Her family was stationed there while her dad was in the service. After a couple of years they moved to Indiana for a short time then to Kentucky where she stayed through college. Jill first met her husband, Karl in the 7th grade and remained friends through High School. They began dating before leaving for college and decided to continue a long distance relationship. Karl went off to MIT in Boston and Jill attended the University of Kentucky. While attending college, Jill, who had always dreamed of being a teacher, decided to do something different than what anyone expected of her. She declared her first major in Physical Therapy. That only lasted a few months until Jill realized her true calling was in teaching. During Jill’s senior year of college both her parents quit their jobs and moved from Kentucky to Florida. They had always wanted to work for Disney World. Her dad, who was first told he had too much experience to get a job there, applied and got a job as a cashier and then quickly moved up to upper management. Jill remained in Kentucky at college and earned a BA in Elementary Education and an MA in Educating Diverse Learners. Karl finished his Senior year at Northwestern University which was much closer to Jill. They soon decided to get married.
Jill and her husband both graduated with teaching degrees and were excited to figure out what was next for them. Jill had visited Colorado to check out some of the school districts and fell in love with the state. Her husband grew up spending summers camping in Colorado and recommended they move there. Jill was happy to follow him anywhere, so they packed up their truck and moved to Colorado with the hopes of finding jobs. Once in Denver, they stopped to pick up a paper to check out the wanted ads to find a place to live. They were overwhelmed with the number of apartments for rent and had no idea which area they wanted to be in. They decided to drive to Fort Collins knowing that it was a smaller town and might have better luck. They quickly found a place to live but jobs were scarce, every person they met was an unemployed teacher looking for work. After living in Fort Collins for a year, Jill was hired on to teach middle school in the Aurora school district, which moved them to the city of Aurora. Jill had always wanted to teach Elementary School, but she would do whatever she had to in order to get a job teaching. She began teaching 6th grade Science, then moved up to 8th grade. Jill said, “I never wanted to teach 8th grade. My first few days were horrible: the students were bigger than me, and it was scary! But I ended up loving it so much, I taught them for 9 years.” Eventually, Jill knew that she had to pursue her dream of teaching Elementary School or she would never do it. She put in for a transfer and bounced around schools teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. Around this time Jill and her husband adopted an 8-month little girl from China, whom they named Abby. Jill decided to become a stay at home mom for the next 6 years to give Abby her full attention. When she went back to work for the Aurora Schools, her husband was teaching in Littleton, and their daughter was beginning school at Renaissance’s Parker location. It was a crazy time for them! During her daughter's second year at Renaissance, Jill was offered a job teaching First Grade. This was what she had been wanting for as long as she could remember. The school was a perfect fit. Jill says, “I would not teach anywhere else. If I leave, I will retire. I have been at four or five different elementary schools and nothing ever compares to Renaissance.”
This is Jill’s 12th year teaching at the school. Jill believes first grade is very addictive as a teacher because of all the incredible growth that happens. First grade is where kids really start getting into reading. Jill has a passion for literacy, she loves getting her students excited about books. She says, “Teaching is my purpose for being, it is my job, it is my community service, and it is my hobby. I don’t mind spending all my time teaching.” Jill has an Educational Assistant, Cate Witter in her classroom every day. Cate leads the Crew’s small groups and guided reading groups. This allows Jill time to help striving readers that may need more intense support. Jill says, “I was determined that I would not let a kid struggle with reading in my class. The whole school believes you do intervention early and not wait till later. A child’s confidence can get messed up the longer they wait.” Cate has this to say about working with Jill, “She is a great team player: she is generous and a natural teacher, and I enjoy every day I work with her.“ Jill’s Crew has recently been doing a case study on sound in Expedition. Jill was teaching a controversy piece with the students about how all of the noise pollution in the ocean can make it difficult for whales and dolphins to communicate with their pods and can get separated. Jill said, “I could tell this upset the kids, so I switched it very quickly and asked them what could be some solutions for this?” All the kids were raising their hands with all kinds of great ideas. I told them, ‘See, we can feel sad about something but come up with a solution to do something about it.’ I enjoy watching the students figure things out on their own and take control of their learning.”
When asked what she loves about Renaissance she said, “Voyages and Expedition are always great but what I love most about Renaissance is the teacher autonomy. We all work together. I know that if I need help with a student I have a wonderful support team to lean on. We are all constantly learning and bouncing ideas off of one another.” This is Jill’s 26th year teaching! One of Jill’s other jobs at Renaissance is being a mentor to new teachers. Jill, having been the new person several times at other schools, knows what it is like to start somewhere new and has a soft spot for those coming into work at REMS for the first time. She enjoys making the new staff feel welcome at the school. She will work getting them comfortable with the unique teaching and programming. She loves this because she gets to talk to them about her favorite thing, teaching! If you have had a student in Jill’s class then you know about her Crew Blog. This is a wonderful resource for parents and students to stay up to date with the learning that goes on in the classroom. She will post photos, ideas for extra learning at home, and loads of information that helps families throughout the year. Jill also has a personal blog that is a great resource for any parent in the school. Jill talks about teaching young readers, the importance of brain breaks, language development, and phonics. You can find her personal blog here.
Even in Jill’s free time, she enjoys reading. She has a bookshelf at home that has every teaching book you can imagine! She also enjoys being in the Staff Book Club at school. Jill and her family spend time together taking walks, playing board games, and dominoes. Jill’s daughter Abby is now a sophomore at Ft. Lewis College in Durango. She too is working towards a degree in teaching and enjoying taking the school’s Adventure Education classes. You can often see Abby back at Renaissance helping belay students during climbing. Family is incredibly important to Jill. Both her and her husband Karl spend time traveling to help with the care of their parents. Jill, Karl & Abby hope to take a summer trip to Yellowstone together soon.
Thank You, Jill, for sharing your passion for literacy with the students at our school, you are making a difference every day!