Primarily Math | Profiles

Jessica Tewalt teaches in her classroom

Jessica Tewalt

Primarily Math

Second Grade Teacher, Cavett Elementary, Lincoln Public Schools

Jessica Tewalt reaped the benefits of teaching in a school with a math coach – not to mention a math coach who participated in Primarily Math.

Tewalt, a Cohort 4 participant teaching at Cavett Elementary in Lincoln, worked with Cohort 1 participant Tara Zuspan, the school’s former math coach, since she started there three years ago. Zuspan is now a teacher at Brownell Elementary.

“Tara helped me plan and try new math ideas in my classroom. She pushed the boundaries of what was expected and helped me gain important math teaching know-ledge,” Tewalt said. “In college, they teach you how to make a lesson plan. Tara taught me how to teach math.”

Tewalt said she appreciates the teamwork and sharing of ideas that having a building math coach provides.

“Some people might think that working with a coach means you have a weakness. I know that I am just pushing myself to be a better teacher,” she said.

The camaraderie between the Primarily Math teachers also encourages Tewalt as she works on completing the program in 2013.

“We are working together and helping one another grow as learners,” Tewalt said. “There is no fear of failing because you always have someone willing to help you. I can’t imagine what my teaching would be like without this program. A whole new door has been opened.”

Originally from Pine Island, Minn., a small town 20 minutes north of Rochester, Tewalt was recruited to work for LPS at a job fair in Minneapolis. Both of her grandmothers were teachers, leading Tewalt to decide to pursue teaching as a career from an early age.

“After taking a leave of absence raising her seven children, my Grandma Pearl was asked to come back to teaching. She decided to continue her education and went back to get her bachelor’s degree in education. When she received it, she was 56 years old and at the University of Wisconsin-Superior,” Tewalt said. “She was my biggest inspiration. When I was little she would sit me on her lap and talk about how much she loved her second-graders, which is why I pursued teaching second grade.”

Not only has Tewalt been amazed by what her students have done after teaching them new ways of thinking about math, parents of Tewalt’s students have been impressed as well. One parent said, “Since we incorporated books about math and math games at home, my child has developed a better attitude toward doing math skills worksheets at home and school.”

Tewalt added, “My students don’t sit during math. They walk to the front of the room proud. Students give each other high-fives after figuring out a problem. They cheer for a student with limited English who gets up in front of the class. It is fascinating to see, and I feel so proud of all they have accomplished.”