When Jessica Heckman was a third-grader at Mountain View Elementary School in Windsor, her dream job was to become an elementary school teacher.
Fast forward 15 years.
The only technology she remembers from when she was a student at Mountain View was an overhead projector. In 2012, students are adept at using iPads in the classroom.
When the first day of school begins Tuesday in the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District, Heckman will greet 25 third-graders at the same school she once attended.
Heckman, the daughter of Brenda and John Heckman of Windsor, was hired out of a pool of more than 200 candidates for the third-grade teaching position at Mountain View. Heckman, 23, graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with an elementary education degree on May 5. Ten days later, she was hired as a new teacher in her hometown district.
Heckman, a 2007 Windsor High School graduate, is returning home for her dream job, and she can’t be more elated. Receiving the news from Mountain View principal Dan Cox that she was the No. 1 selection still has Heckman smiling.
“I’m still not believing it, even though my room is set up and everything,” Heckman said. “Being probably one of the younger people they interviewed, coming right out of college, it was amazing when Dan gave me that phone call that I got the job. I was so surprised. I’m very, very blessed to be able to say that I’m doing what I love doing and what I want to do already. It’s awesome.”
Heckman, who did her student teaching at Mountain View from January through April of this past year, knows how competitive the job market is these days, especially in the teaching profession.
“I feel extremely fortunate to have this,” Heckman said. “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since elementary school, and going through classes in high school and all through college. Teachers were saying, ‘It’s going to be so hard when you get out of college to find a job.’ It’s scary with how it is right now. Having a job right out of college, I’m very fortunate. I was thinking that my entire summer was going to be interviewing and filling out applications every day. To have it happen so fast was crazy.”
Heckman joins new Windsor Middle School eighth-grade teacher Joscelynn Schreiber as a Windsor High School graduate returning to teach in the school district this year.
Schreiber was a former fourth-grade student of Re-4 superintendent Karen Trusler.
“She also was a student at Windsor Middle School under (principal) Doug Englert’s leadership,” Trusler said. “Doug and I remember her as a very bright student. We are both pleased that she has taken her interest and expertise in mathematics into a career in teaching, and that she will be here to teach our eighth-graders.”
Trusler said Amy Bush, a new preschool teacher at Tozer Primary School, also attended Windsor schools for many years before moving to the Greeley area.
“She was in my kindergarten class at Skyview,” Trusler said. “She understands the developmental needs of preschoolers and what these young learners need prior to entering kindergarten. I welcome back her knowledge and care for these young students.”
Trusler said Heckman learned many valuable lessons through a teaching program at the high school.
“While at Windsor High School, she participated in the teacher cadet program through Beth Francis’ class learning about teaching as a career and supporting elementary teachers during the school year,” Trusler said. “Through this experience, I believe she decided to become a teacher.”
Francis told Trusler that Heckman is the high school’s first ‘graduate’ of the Windsor Teacher Cadet program who has graduated from Windsor, received her degree in elementary education and returned to teach in the Re-4 district.
“There were over 200 applications for this third-grade position at Mountain View. Miss Heckman demonstrated in her interview that she was the best of the candidate pool for our students,” Trusler said. “She knows the community, of course, but she is passionate about student learning and teaching. She is excited to begin her new career as a teacher. We are proud of her accomplishments and look forward to how she supports high quality education for our students.”
Attending Tozer, Mountain View, Windsor Middle School and Windsor High School gives Heckman a unique perspective on understanding the school district. Heckman said it’s special teaching at the same school she attended.
“Memories are everywhere in that school. It’s really awesome to walk down the hall. I remember what room I had in third grade, and I walked past that. I walk past the music room and I remember choir practice,” Heckman said. “It’s really special to just walk through and have all those memories that a lot of other people don’t get the opportunity to teach in the school that they grew up in.”
Heckman said she understands how important the relationship is between Tozer and Mountain View students and teachers.
“Having gone from Tozer to Mountain View, I have a unique perspective that some of the teachers may not have,” Heckman said. “The third-graders coming in are different than the rest of the third-graders in the district. The other third-graders are still in the same school. They already know all the teachers. The ones coming from Tozer are going to a brand new school and they’re probably scared and nervous. I have done that and I can kind of share that perspective with them, and I think maybe that will help a little bit on the first day. Tozer and Mountain View do a really good job of bridging the schools and working together. If I can tell my students, ‘I have been right where you were. I’ve gone from Tozer to Mountain View.’ It will be like a unique perspective for them.”
Heckman said watching the teachers she had while in school made her want to be an elementary school teacher.
“I remember watching them and wanting to do what they were doing,” she said. “I’d go home and set up rows of teddy bears and my little sister (Cassi) would be my student, and I’d play school,” Heckman said. “I thought it looked like the most awesome job in the world. The more time I spent volunteering in schools and taking classes in high school and college, I realize that it is the most awesome job and I wanted to keep pursuing it.”
Heckman said she aspires to be the teacher who makes a difference in the classroom.
“That would be amazing if when I’m retired, I hear from a student that says, ‘You are the reason why I am here.’ That would be the best thing I could ever hear,” she said.
Heckman’s mother is the director of the Windsor Food Pantry. Heckman said watching her mother’s compassion that she has when people come in for food has inspired her.
“I just want to have that much compassion for everybody. I learned that from both my parents, just being good to people,” Heckman said. “I want to bring that to the classroom, and just teach the kids to be good to each other. That’s the best gift you can give somebody is being good to them. I think I definitely learned that from my parents and watching my mom at the food pantry.”
Heckman never thought she’d end up teaching in Windsor.
“When you graduate, the world is completely open and I could go anywhere,” Heckman said. “Now that I got the job in Windsor, I really wouldn’t want to teach anywhere else because it’s a great district and a great community to be in.”
There were over 200 applications for this third-grade position at Mountain View. Miss Heckman demonstrated in her interview that she was the best of the candidate pool for our students. ... We are proud of her accomplishments and look forward to how she supports high quality education for our students.\n
Karen Trusler, \n
Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District superintendent