Washington Middle School language arts teacher Jennifer Ditzman says she takes it personally when her students struggle and strives to remain a positive impact on their lives. / Lukas Keapproth/Press-Gazette Media
Jennifer Ditzman measures her success in the classroom largely by day-to-day victories.
After starting her career in broadcast, the Language Arts teacher at Washington Middle School in Green Bay changed paths, opting to work in the classroom. Her work earned her a 2013 Golden Apple award, an initiative of Partners in Education, an arm of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, to honor area teachers who have made a difference in their classrooms.
Press-Gazette Media recently spoke with Ditzman about her career and teaching.
Q. How did you decide to become a teacher?
A. I started out in radio and was beginning my career path in broadcasting for Wisconsin Public Radio and I had an ah-ha moment where I realized I donít want to talk about the issues in education. I want to be part of the change that happens. I come from a family of educators, and I tried to do something different, but ultimately itís what I really wanted to do and what Iím really passionate about.
Q. What do like best best about the job?
A. I get excited to come to school every single day. Iím here because I love working with young minds and young people. I donít think thereís another job for me. I forget sometimes that Iím working.
Q. How did you end up choosing language arts?
A. For me, it was really about fostering critical-thinking skills for young minds. ... I also wanted to have an effect on character building, empathy, compassion, dignity, integrity and work ethic.
Q. What are the top challenges in your job?
A. I want to make sure Iím giving each kid enough time and consideration that no matter what is happening in their life I can still be a positive role model and have a positive effect on their lives. Itís hard on me when students struggle to not take it personally and not take that home with me at night. It can be really emotional and tough when you see kids going through struggles.
Q. Is there any particular situation with a student that stands out as a highlight of your career?
A. Have I had students win awards? Yes. Have I helped students get into college? Absolutely. But itís never about me or something I taught them, ultimately itís about helping a kid find what they were looking for or something they needed in terms of who they are are or what they were looking for. My accomplishments really are the small stories that most people wouldnít even know about: the kid who ends up liking to read a book by the end of the year; the kid who starts talking in class and gaining confidence. Itís those small things ... every week that happens. Iím so thankful that I get to be part of that experience.
Q. What do you see in your future?
A. Iím a teacher.
I live in the community and my husband and I both work within the district and love working with students, we both do.
I see myself being in education in 10 years and becoming better every single year.
ē Age: 35
ē Family: Husband, Christopher Ditzman; daughter and expecting another child.
ē Education: Degree in communication arts, radio, TV and film from the University of Wisconsin; degree in secondary English education from UW-Whitewater.
ē Career: Previously worked at Wisconsin Public Radio; has been a teacher for more than five years, including a year-and-a-half at Washington Middle School teaching language arts to 7th- and 8th-grade students.
ē Hobbies: Gardening, travel; reading; parenting; and film.
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