R.I. Teacher of the Year Jessica Waters Honored by Her Alma Mater

From left are Lisa Johansen, R.I. History Teacher of the Year; Sasha Sidorkin, dean of the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development; RIC President Nancy Carriuolo; and Jessica Waters, R.I. Teacher of the Year.

Jessica Waters ’08 – who went from high-school dropout to Rhode Island’s 2013 Teacher of the Year – returned to RIC for a reception in her honor on Oct. 16. The college, she said, was where her journey to become a teacher began.

Waters was joined by family members and friends as well as colleagues from Beacon Charter High School for the Arts, where she teaches science. The event was hosted by RIC President Nancy Carriuolo, and Sasha Sidorkin, dean of the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development.

Waters said it was great to be back at RIC, and gave special thanks to Paul Tiskus, a RIC professor who, she said, was “really inspiring to me” and “accepted nothing less than the very best.”

“I hope you’re proud and pleased today,” she said to Tiskus.

Tiskus in turn lauded Waters for her humor and ability to laugh at herself. “She always had a good understanding of who she was,” he said.

Waters overcame a difficult home life in her youth and went on to earn a BA in secondary education from RIC. Her work at the Beacon Charter school includes requiring students to write reflective essays, maintaining an online discussion board and polling her students on teaching and learning in her classes to help improve her skills.

Also recognized at the reception was RIC grad Lisa Johansen ‘88, who last month was named Rhode Island History Teach of the Year. Johansen teaches U.S. history at Coventry High School, where she is coordinator of the school’s History Day and advisor to the History Club. She continues her connection to RIC as a student teacher mentor and practicum instructor.

 Jessica Waters discusses her teaching methods with teacher preparation students.

Prior to the reception, Waters spoke to a class of teacher preparation students at RIC. She shared her teaching philosophy, listing several qualities she believes are essential for teaching excellence. Among them were flexibility, being exciting and engaged in the class, managing classroom time efficiently and the simple act of smiling.

Waters also noted the importance of self examination – gauging the effectiveness of lessons taught and approaches to teaching – as well as exploring the latest in the education field by attending workshops and helping to bring about improvements by joining committees.

The first slide in her class presentation was a quote from writer Mary Anne Radmacher that Waters’ found to be valuable advice for teachers, though perhaps she viewed it as a life lesson as well:

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”