“The students keep me in love with teaching”: Q&A with Jessica Wambeke, MEd ’15
As a resource teacher in Iowa, Jessica Wambeke helps elementary school students who have many different needs and learning styles. With a Master of Education in Special Education (now called the MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: The Inclusive Classroom), she is passionate about supporting students in every possible way, creating inclusive learning environments, and learning more herself each day. For these reasons and many more, we selected Jessica as one of our Featured Cavaliers. See what she’s up to and how her experience attending Concordia University-Portland helps shape her students’ success.
What are you currently doing or what have you recently done that you’d like to share with fellow educators?
I am currently a part of MTSS (Multi-Tier System of Supports), which is also known as RTI (Response to Intervention), for grades 3 – 5 in my building this year. We are a group of educators from throughout the building, and we meet once a month or as needed. General education teachers can bring students to us to discuss, help monitor, or start the process for evaluating.
I have also been a part of MTSS in public and private schools in North Dakota, Idaho, and, now, Iowa. I enjoy seeing the different approaches to interventions, paperwork, and wording that comes with each new state and district. I have learned a lot from other teachers being in these support groups, and I really enjoy looking at numbers from data that is collected. It is always fulfilling when an intervention has some level of success.
How do you think your master’s degree program has specifically benefited your students?
I am finally able to teach in a level-one special education room. It also made me think about really working to push myself outside of my comfort zone and to always try something new. I really enjoyed sharing with others. Everyone had different experiences, cultures, and expectations based on where they were working.
What do you continue to utilize from your Concordia education?
I continue to utilize important laws, the history of special education, and how special education has changed over time. The least restrictive environment plays a big part in how students are supported in the general and special education classroom. Students are not so secluded but are included. I am a big cheerleader to include students who are on 504’s or IEP’s as much as possible. Greeting and welcoming them when you see them is a great way to start building a bond with students.
Can you share a favorite aspect or experience from the program?
I enjoyed reading and responding to other people’s comments. I teach in the elementary grade levels and found it helpful to understand some of the experiences students face as they transition into the upper grades. Sometimes when working with students that stumped me or my colleagues, I might ask for opinions. This is how I was introduced to Class Dojo (which I love!). I enjoyed discussing different curriculums that were being used, too. I found not all teachers had a curriculum to support their classrooms and were creating their own in a sense. It was a very enriching online environment.
What, if anything, did you appreciate about Concordia’s faith-based values?
I enjoyed the comfort of being able to talk freely about faith if you chose to do so.
What keeps you motivated and in love with teaching?
The students keep me in love with teaching. You are always learning something new, and no two days are the same.
What do you still hope to achieve as an educator?
Eventually, I want to go back and get my doctorate and teach at the collegiate level. My goal is to start that when my youngest starts high school (he is in 2nd grade).
What advice or insight would you give other busy professionals who are considering a graduate degree from Concordia?
Despite leading a very busy life, Concordia made it possible to still be a mom, wife, friend, full-time resource teacher, and graduate student. I am very happy with my choice! I was able to still be a parent, work, and handle the school workload. Being able to focus on one class at a time was very beneficial, and I really enjoyed being connected with people from all over. In addition, the professors were highly knowledgeable, considerate, and set up requirements that were very explicit.
How do you feel the program and what you learned aligns with Concordia’s mission to prepare leaders for the transformation of society?
I feel that the program helped me grow and become more prepared to help transform society today. Concordia did a wonderful job of helping students to understand the history and importance of special education, and how it looks and applies to today’s world.
Thank you, Jessica, for all you’re doing to impact your students’ lives and your educational community.
Kara Wyman has a BA in literature and an MEd from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She spent a decade working with adolescents as an English teacher, the founder and director of a drama program, a curriculum designer, and a project manager for a teen-centered nonprofit organization. She is now the Alumni and Community Manager for Concordia University-Portland.