Senior Jesse Zoeller has thought about being a teacher since he was a sixth grader at what is now St. John Paul II School. He loved learning, but he was a shy student and struggled to communicate well with others. But through theatre, he has overcome his shyness and after doing a job shadow for a day, he feels more certain that teaching is the career path for him, he said.
Jesse shadowed Mrs. Jill Brock, a former Providence parent and a first grade teacher at St. John Paul II. He said he learned from observing her the qualities needed in a “great elementary teacher,” including enthusiasm and the ability to connect with the students. He was then given the opportunity to connect with the students by reading several books to them, including one of his favorites, The Giving Tree.
When they responded with enthusiastic questions, he said he experienced a sense of validation that he was capable of being a good teacher. When he was their age, he wouldn’t have felt comfortable asking questions or reading aloud to others. But being involved in Providence theatre and working at the Louisville Zoo for the World’s Largest Halloween Party has helped him grow more confident in overcoming his past shyness over meeting new people.
“Students who had never met me before were asking me questions, and I saw that their communication skills were better than mine were when I was that age,” Jesse said.
Portraying different characters on stage also helped him break out of his shyness, he said. When he talked to Mrs. Brock about teaching, he realized that teachers sometimes use those same skills, by projecting enthusiasm even if they may be having a bad day.
His ability to project enthusiasm is what brought about his job shadow day in the first place. His portrayal of Felonius Gru from the feature cartoon film Despicable Me for a Popcorn Players skit caught the attention of Mrs. Brock. Jesse said she told him how much the students loved his character portrayal and that they would love to see him again. So he set up a day to observe her teaching and visit the students.
Looking back on the day and how the students responded to his storytelling, Jesse said he now feels very confident that he can be a good teacher someday.
“It proved I am capable of doing these things,” Jesse said. “That tells me I’m going down the right path.”
Jesse plans to pursue a degree in elementary education at Indiana University Southeast and is getting an early start by taking some of his general education requirements in the summer sessions.