Alumni Working at ASH: Jessica, Class of 2014
“I look back on my time at ASH very fondly, especially my time in middle school. I felt that our identities were being celebrated as opposed to having to fit in a certain box; at ASH we can create our own molds and be ourselves.”
In this article series, we will introduce you to some of the ASH students who came back full circle to now work at ASH. Meet Jessica, Class of 2014, who is teaching Dutch to our middle and high schoolers, as well as helping with the first on-stage middle school musical since COVID.
When were you a student at ASH?
I was at ASH from 5th grade to 12th grade, starting halfway through grade 5. My family had just moved back to the Netherlands from Mexico. In Mexico I was at a really nice international school that was similar to ASH. When we moved back to the Netherlands it was a hard transition for me to go back to a Dutch school. Luckily we found ASH halfway through the year, and I was pretty desperate to move schools. I immediately felt at home and I felt welcomed.
I also learned to speak English fluently at ASH. I spoke a tiny bit of English when we were in Mexico, and spoke only Dutch when we came back to the NL. Then I came to ASH and I started off in 5th grade with (then EAL teacher) Arlette. She taught me English, and I had a student ambassador…so I look back on my time at ASH very fondly, especially my time in middle school. I felt like I was finally around people like me, a mix, as my background is Dutch and Mexican. I felt that our identities were being celebrated as opposed to having to fit in a certain box; at ASH we can create our own molds and be ourselves.
I loved theater at ASH from the beginning, I participated in all of the plays. I did a musical with Ms. Hurd, one of my first musicals in Grade 6, and it was called “Pirates of Scheveningen”. I met up with her quite recently to talk about the musical we are doing now, and I told her “I still remember the lyrics and the dance movements from that musical I was in with you!” What I am also very grateful for is that some of my best friends are my ASH friends, friends that I made while in middle school.
How has it been for you to teach at ASH over the past years?
It's really interesting to now teach at ASH, to be on the other end of things. I expected things to be a bit more jarring, but it's been a very natural process and I really enjoy teaching. I started tutoring around 30 students during COVID. I was very much longing to teach in the classroom, having colleagues and being in that international school environment. I missed that so much during the lockdown years, it felt like coming home when I started at ASH. And I've really enjoyed it.
I teach in both middle and high school, so I get to see the students' progression. It helps that I understand the school and the ethos here, and I did the IB. I can understand what the kids in high school are dealing with emotionally and with the workload. I also understand the world that they grow up with, with social media and the internet and how incredibly consuming and tiring it is. Because of this I can ask them to disconnect and leave their devices in a little mobile box I created when they come to my class. I'm sure they thought I would be the last teacher to implement something like that but I know what it is like to always be “on”. It's tiring, as your brain is always connected.
How did you find yourself applying to work at ASH?
I've been working at ASH since lockdown as a sub, and this year I'm teaching Dutch classes both in middle and high school. I graduated from my theater program in 2019 just before lockdown hit, and I wanted to find something stable during that really uncertain time. So I moved back to the Netherlands and simultaneously completed my teaching degree, and then enrolled as a sub at ASH. It wasn't a straightforward path for me but I’m really happy that I found a way and I can share this message with students. I had some fantastic teachers that are now my colleagues, but one of the things that I would have loved to hear is that life takes you in completely different directions. We put so much pressure on ourselves to choose the right path.
I am glad I studied what I did because I feel like my first degree in theater helps me be a better teacher. And it's part of who I am, it's something that I will always be - actress Jess - but now there is a new part of me that is teacher Jess. Kids need to know that it's not one upwards trajectory, that is up and down, and as long as we realize that we can help subside some pressure in them.
How has your time working at ASH shaped your career and future?
My time working at ASH has given me the opportunity to grow my confidence as a teacher. I didn't know if I would act and teach on the side, but now I teach and act on the side. So I have a new perspective: that I can get an additional teaching degree, that I can set new goals that I never expected for myself. Now that I am in this really cool learning environment, it's like ok, now I have to practice what I preach! I tell the kids to keep being hungry for learning more, and now I have to do the same. I feel like we are never done learning.
What are some of the stand out moments in your ASH experience?
As a student my stand out moments include those with my best friends and all the fantastic funny things that we did at school. The best thing that I got out of ASH, apart from who I ended up becoming, is obviously all of my best friends. And I really owe a lot to the theater community at ASH. I really loved how they allowed us to flourish and let us be our individual selves. I hope that now that I am part of the middle school musical this year I can pass on that torch.
My standout moment as a teacher is being a part of the middle school musical crew. It’s so much fun working with the talented staff, and having some high schoolers work on set with the middle schoolers to create that dynamic learning environment. We are also using a robotic dog made during the robotics class! The robotics students are excited to see a product they have worked on for so long live past a competition or project deadline, as usually they take it apart when the project wraps up. Everyone is excited to be back on stage, be a part of the audience, take part somehow. We are getting ourselves hyped up, going to be great!
We have a diverse community of students, staff, and families from around the world. Each member of our community brings their own story that enriches the #ASHexperience.