Teri Vance: Getting a jump start on life

It was a bittersweet moment walking out of Dayton High School on Friday, having just finished my first teaching job for Western Nevada College’s Jump Start program.

I taught the Communications 101 class to juniors, who were on track to graduate with not only a diploma from Dayton High School but an associate’s degree from Western Nevada College as well.

It was a tough class. As an accelerated course leading up to the fall semester, we met for three weeks — three hours every day.

As someone who has never taught formally before, creating lesson plans was like learning a foreign language. And preparing content for three hours was exhausting sometimes.

For the students it was rigorous as well. For the most part, they were preparing a five- to seven-minute speech every other day.

But, at the same time, there was a little bit of magic.

While it was my first time teaching, it was their first official college class. We all came in with trepidation, not knowing what to expect.

I didn’t want to let on I would have no idea what to do if they turned on me. They told me later I scared them by wearing all black — so luckily I didn’t have to figure out a discipline strategy (that’s a free tip to all of you teachers out there).

Perhaps it was the subject we were studying — oral communications — which naturally lent itself to sharing life experiences, and the amount of time we spent together, but we formed an easy bond pretty quickly into the class.

With their speeches, they inspired me with their compassion — one student volunteering at a camp for students with special needs — and their dedication to creating a healthier and safer world.

They broke my heart wide open with their vulnerability and sincerity.

They made me laugh out loud. One student told how he hit the curb with his mom’s van, popping two tires. His first instinct was to wipe it for prints and report it stolen, before he realized there were surveillance cameras nearby.

This is the second year of the program, which allows high school students to earn college and high school credit simultaneously. Last year saw a 97 percent course completion rate, and enrollment is expected to increase from 200 to nearly 300 students this school year.

I had no idea what to expect going in. But it exceeded anything I could have expected.

I learned what I think any seasoned teacher already knew. It’s a demanding job, but the rewards are well beyond the effort.

Most of all, I learned we should be proud of this upcoming generation. They are smarter than we give them credit for, kinder than we realize and are going to do great things beyond what even they envision.


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