When I was twelve years old, a friend and I started a bicycle shop in his dads garage in North Carolina. Pulling bikes apart and trying again and again to get them back together provided me with a rewarding and exciting self-directed project that was unlike anything being supported by my school. I could not have guessed at the time that this exploration would carry me through nearly two decades of working in bicycle shops, designing maintenance classes, and helping kids learn about bicycles. Facilitating after school and vocational education programs for Portland Community College, the Community Cycling Center, Outside In, and the Portland Yellow Bike Program allowed me to explore my desire to help others learn about the world in front of them.
Desiring to continue my development as a teacher, and broaden my horizons as a learner, I returned to college in 1996, starting at Portland Community College and later graduating from Portland State University. During this time, I studied ceramics, welding, and Spanish, finally finding my greatest interest in the study of world history. I came to appreciate how the study of history provides a platform from which to explore the social parameters within which societies agree to live. A social studies classroom has the potential to create engaging, relevant, and meaningful discussions about the process of history and its connection to the role of the individual in the present and in the future.
When I returned to public education as a teacher, it was with a sense of what is fundamentally important about learning that the purpose of education is to create life-long learners. The classroom should be a place where students are encouraged to think critically when given the boundaries and support in which to do so. And, like my days in that garage in North Carolina a students need to become active participants in their learning in order to make it meaningful. Lasting learning is based upon the ability to connect seemingly abstract ideas to real world experience.
My responsibility as a teacher is to help forge links between students personal lives and the concepts introduced in the classroom. I have always been an active and curious learner. Today, as a facilitator of learning, I am a strong advocate of alternative schools as a solution to many of the problems faced by larger public schools today. I believe that the smaller, more intimate structure of Trillium fosters a responsive and caring community of teachers, students, and their parents. The emphasis on self-directed learning provides a network of support for students to explore and develop their own areas of interest. School should be a place where we can have heated discussions about the past, explore ideas that fascinate us in the present, and be encouraged to take ownership of our learning, digging our hands in, when necessary, and getting greasy.
High School Math
Jess is also known as Jessie to her family or Jessica Leigh Brooks when she’s in trouble or trying to act official. She was born in Chicago and raised in Ohio where she narrowly escaped in 2000. She took up sanctuary in the northeast at a small university called Alfred, in the town of Alfred right down the road from a place called Alfred Station. Apart from that it really was in the middle of nowhere, which was perfect for Jess’ favorite pastime of playing in wooded, rocky and water-like areas. Jess was known as Jessbrooks in those days. She became Czar of an outdoor organization called the Forrest People, started an activist group, became president of the ever so cool Math Club and sat on the Judicial Board. She also became the Astronomy TA somehow, although knows very little about the subject.
After Alfred, for some unknown reason, Jess traveled west with a college friend for the city of Portland. Then, as it turns out, Portland agreed with her and she’s been there since. Here she’s fallen in love, created a pottery studio, retreats to a bountiful garden and obtained a healthy bike collection. Her first job here was as a bike mechanic, before plummeting into the world of Math tutoring and education. She began taking Graduate Math Education classes at PSU in 2005. Also in 2005 she began working for Pacific Crest Community School as their Algebra 2 teacher and in 2006 she started working for Trillium Charter School. In 2010 she finally completed her masters program graduating with a MST degree.
High School Language Arts
I grew up in San Diego, CA and moved to Portland about a year after graduating high school. I attended Portland Community College and transferred to Portland State to earn my B.S. in English and Applied Linguistics. I continued with Portland State through the GTEP program to earn my Masters in Education.
I began working in afterschool programs supporting middle school youth when I was in high school; I have been working as a tutor, mentor, advocate and teacher ever since. As an educator I never lose that feeling I had when I was in high school, that I could change the world and that I could make a difference; students inspire me, they make me laugh and I am in awe of their energy and their might.
When I’m not teaching I am usually reading, which means that I am still thinking about teaching with every page. I also love to sew and am an avid quilter; I find that all quilts tell a story, they weave ideas and cement bonds, they have a rich heritage and strict rules but no two are ever the same. I love being outdoors (it’s a great place to read) and the best way to my heart is through sweets.
For all of my adult life I have said that my favorite quote was “never let your schooling interfere with your education,” and while Mark Twain is both brilliant and right, I am so glad to have found myself finally in a place where school does not inhibit, it does not restrain, but rather frees students and inspires them. I am so glad to be part of this community.
Not born but raised in Wisconsin, I attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and majored in Archaeology. That degree brought me to the Pacific Northwest where I worked as a research scientist in field archeology for 13 years. As an archeologist I travelled the entire northwest, seeing some of the most beautiful country in the world.
As a student, I struggled as a kid with ADHD in school. My passion for science and a few caring teachers made all the difference and I decided to pay that gift forwards. I then earned my graduate school teaching credentials from Portland State. Endorsed in social studies, integrated science, and biology, I intimately understand the struggles kids with learning disabilities face.
I see the world is an enormous science lab! I provide an integrated approach to science, make class hands on, and provide students opportunities to explore their own interests.
My free time is spent with my husband, son, and my dog Ira. We love to ski, hike, backpack, and travel. On Sunday’s you’ll find my watching the Greenbay Packers!
My claims to fame are meeting heroine Jane Goodall, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and meeting Fred Armisen when I was an extra on Portlandia.