Teri Vance: Lessons my students taught me

Teri Vance's Jump Start class.

Teri Vance's Jump Start class.

My third “year” of teaching the Communications 101 class for Western Nevada College’s Jumpstart program has come to a close. (I put “year” in quotation marks because I teach an entire semester at Dayton High School in three weeks. As an accelerated class, we meet every day for three hours each day — it’s intense, but short lived).

Although it’s a short class, I always see so much transformation over the course of the three weeks. Students who show up on the first day too shy to look up from their notes when speaking, end with speeches that are engaging and interactive.

I have, in the past, written a column with my advice to the students as they move along in their high school and college careers — the Jump Start program allows students, beginning as juniors, to take college and high school courses simultaneously. If they’re successful, they receive their high school diplomas and associate’s degrees at the same time.

I always like to leave them with a message they have the skills they need to make it through the rigorous program. But this year, I will take some of the messages students have conveyed during their speeches as advice for them, as well as for all of us.

Here are the top 3:

1. Listen to your mom. In her final speech Alondra listed the times in her life she failed to listen to her mom with disastrous outcomes. She cut her finger, shaved the skin off her face and got hit in the head with a pinata stick when failing to listen to her mom’s advice.

It’s a universal truth. Moms know best. (Well, most moms. There are those exceptions, and I want to acknowledge that). In general, it’s your mom who loves you and wants what’s best for you. Listen to her advice. Even if you don’t always take it, understand she has your best interest at heart.

And when she tells you you’re the best and everybody else is just jealous, she’s right.

2. Get a better perspective. Logan gave a speech about planning the perfect date. One of the steps, he said, was to find a beautiful location to take your sweetheart. However, he lamented, he couldn’t think of a necessarily beautiful place in Dayton.

But he gave a pro tip: “The higher up in the mountains you go, the prettier the town looks.”

I agree. Anytime you’re having trouble finding the beauty around you, get to higher ground. It will change your perspective completely.

3. You belong. In the first week of class, Elisio told me, “I don’t belong here.” He looked around and saw band nerds, math geeks and all types of kids who didn’t look or act like him.

In class, we talk a lot about being authentic and speaking from an honest place. I was really bowled away this semester to hear these students sharing their most vulnerable stories.

In his final speech Thursday, Elisio told his classmates he now sees them in a different light. He sees their talents and their fears. He now realizes, they’re all one. That’s what happens when you’re brave enough to let your walls down.

In my final address to the students I told them they each belong in this program, and now they all belong together. It’s good advice for all of us. We all belong. We all belong to each other.

Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at terivance@rocketmail.com.


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