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New teachers excited for their roles in District 161

Four newly minted teachers will be among the 28 new teacher faces when District 161 students return Aug. 12.

For Jillian Jendra and Shakina Washington the pandemic threw a curve to the traditional student teaching routine, but Haley Erlandson and Miranda Quinn taught children at school.

Four newly minted teachers will be among the 28 new teacher faces when District 161 students return Aug. 12.

For Jillian Jendra and Shakina Washington the pandemic threw a curve to the traditional student teaching routine, but Haley Erlandson and Miranda Quinn taught children at school.

Here’s a look at these new faculty members:

Jillian Jendra

Jillian Jendra, kindergarten teacher at Heather Hill

“I actually went all through (Andrew High School) saying I don’t know what I want to be, but I don’t want to be a teacher, and then I took this course (at Andrew) where you get to work within the preschool. As soon as I worked with kids, I said ‘This is it.’… Just the more experience I get working with them, the more rewarding it is, the more assuring that I picked the right profession.”

She did her student teaching in Orland Park in fall 2020. She thought she would have a traditional schedule, but a week before school started, the district imposed restrictions and she switched to a fully remote schedule. 

A few months into remote teaching, the district switched to a hybrid model. She graduated from Illinois State University in December 2020 and stayed at the school to teach the second semester, replacing a teacher on maternity leave.

Shakina Washington

Shakina Washington, kindergarten teacher at Serena Hills

“Initially I was going to pursue more of a social worker job, but when I was completing my internship I kind of fell in love with working with the kids, and they kind of led me to transition to the education field.” 

An Arizona native, Washington earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and electronic film from Northern Arizona University. Her family moved to Memphis five years ago, and two years ago relocated to Illinois. 

She had started a master’s degree in teaching at the University of Tennessee and commuted between Illinois and Tennessee to complete her coursework in May 2021.

Washington’s student teaching started with remote instruction and transitioned to hybrid.

“I definitely learned a lot. It was challenging just because it was my first time in the classroom. I’m thankful for that experience because I do have that (teaching) experience in-person and online, and I feel that’s a great skillset to have at this time. It was challenging and definitely a learning curve for someone who hadn’t been in a classroom before, but I had a great mentor teacher and supervisor. They definitely assisted me throughout the struggles,” she said.

Haley Erlandson

Haley Erlandson, Parker Junior High math teacher

“Growing up, my mom was a teacher. She’s a principal now. I’ve always looked up to her and gone to her classroom to help set up, and when I got to college I said, ‘I think I really want to do this.’ I’ve always enjoyed working with kids and ever since I started I just loved it,” said the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse graduate who hails from the Milwaukee metropolitan area.

Her student teaching experience in January 2021 started remote, but after a week or two her third graders transitioned to in-classroom learning. 

Erlandson’s experience gave her a chance to be “hands-on being a real teacher in person.” As a volunteer for a Boys & Girls Club in LaCrosse, Erlandson has had experience with junior high students and doesn’t expect she’ll have a difficult time transitioning. 

Miranda Quinn

Miranda Quinn, 4th grade teacher, Heather Hill

“I always could envision myself as a teacher, and I also had a hard time in school with reading. I saw a reading specialist. I didn’t perform very well in math or reading when I was in elementary school, and it wasn’t until middle school when I had a teacher who gave me the space to fall in love with reading, and that makes me want to try to give the opportunity to my future students to get a love for reading earlier than I did.” 

Her student teaching in a rural district in Illinois was in-person, and “it was definitely a learning curve. I didn’t know what to expect going into it. It was all new. Due to COVID, I didn’t get to have my last (teacher) clinical experience (at Illinois State University). I truly had like one full semester before COVID got in the way” but her cooperating teacher had 16 years experience and was happy to offer guidance to the future teacher.

“And every time I would go into a classroom I just felt that peace, like this is right. It’s unexplainable. You just know that’s where you’re supposed to be.”

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