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T. H. Rogers teacher never considered working anywhere but HISD

2013 October 24
by HISD Communications

In this week’s I am HISD, which features district students, graduates, employees, and volunteers, T. H. Rogers fourth-grade English language arts teacher Jessica Willie talks about being showcased in HISD’s Professional Support and Development video series on highly effective teaching practices, the value of family legacies, and why she never considered working anywhere but HISD.

You received your teaching degree from Alabama A&M University, the same historically black campus that your grandmother attended. Did her history there — and the fact that she was also an educator — play a part in your decision?

Jessica Willie

I had not really considered (where I was going to go), and then my grandmother raved about the school. It has such a rich history, and a phenomenal education department. She loved her time there, so she, my mom, and I went on a campus visit. I just fell in love with the place instantly, and ended up getting a partial scholarship. I still have family in the area, so it was a bit like having a home away from home.

When you returned to Houston in 2005, I understand that the only district you would consider working for was HISD, and that you’ve been at T. H. Rogers — your first teaching job — ever since. Why is that?

I am a product of HISD schools, and I know the value and emphasis placed on quality teaching and learning experiences for students. I thought I had lots to offer. Rogers has allowed me to grow and develop as a teacher. The supportive administrative team gives me the freedom to push my students and myself. They also support my desire to remain in the classroom and exercise leadership opportunities that come my way. I couldn’t ask for a better place to be.

You were one of the educators highlighted in the video series produced by Professional Support and Development as an example of highly effective teaching. What was that like for you?

Being a part of the video exemplar project was a great experience. I have had such positive feedback from colleagues from around the district. Teachers have e-mailed me about things they saw in the video, and I’ve been able to share lesson plans and materials with teachers I would have otherwise probably never met. I also loved being able to highlight the good things happening in my classroom. The students here are amazingly talented and eager to learn.

I understand you attended the Gates Foundation Conference in California and a Harvard leadership/teaching training in Boston this summer. Tell me a little bit about those experiences. What was the most important thing you took away from each?

The former was about getting the best and brightest teachers to solve problems together, and while it was really focused on the Common Core, what I realized is that those standards were pretty well-aligned with TEKS, and good teaching is good teaching.

At Harvard, we were essentially grad students for a week through a program called Project Zero. They had experts from all over the world modeling really effective teaching techniques, and it really spoke to the kinds of things we all want for our classrooms. It sounds corny, but it was life-changing.

I hear you completed your master’s degree in curriculum instruction at the University of St. Thomas this year. How did you balance the demands of a full-time teaching job with your studies?

I completed my master’s in July—and boy, was it hard work! My family really pushed me to further my education, as they all have post-secondary degrees, themselves. But I consider myself a lifelong learner, so continuing my education was a natural next step. I thrive when I am learning something new in a classroom.

Continuing my education didn’t come without sacrifice, though. There were nights and weekends I spent working on assignments and not out with family and friends. In the end though, it was all worth it. I think that having a firm grasp on curriculum and instruction has made me a better teacher. I can pull useful materials and resources with a more critical eye.

If you know a graduate, student, employee, or other member of Team HISD who should be featured here, please email us at
One Response leave one →
  1. Dave M. permalink
    October 25, 2013

    Thanks for spotlighting one of HISD’s finest!!!

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