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Franciscan Times
News and Stories from The Educators College

Finding Her Passion and Helping Kids Realize their Own

Dr. Jennifer RegelskiCurrently teaching Secondary Education at Marian University, Jennifer Regelski, Ed.D began her teaching career with a degree in Zoology from The Ohio State University. She is currently on the faculty, and after earning her doctorate in 2013, began teaching secondary and STEM education including, a STEM and digital literacy course, best practices strategies, problem-based learning and inquiry teaching.

But, Dr. Regelski, a lover of Albert Einstein—evidenced by the large, colorful bust of Dr. Einstein in her Oldenburg Hall office—did not start out as a teacher. Rather, she began working at Bank One (now Chase Bank) at the corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.

It quickly became apparent Dr. Regelski would not be enamored with the often tedious and monotonous corporate life. Her desk job involved recruiting anxious college graduates to work for the bank, involving lots of time on the phone and selling a banking career. Then, one day everything changed when Jennifer heard about a program allowing bank employees to get their boots-on-the-ground and do volunteer work outside of the office—a blessing for which she had been waiting!

Recognizing the opportunity to do good things in her local community, she chose a program promoted by the bank called The Homeless Families Foundation (HFF) and began working with homeless children. The Homeless Families Foundation was created by volunteers in 1986 to combat family homelessness in Columbus. And, because of her work with the HFF, it wasn’t long thereafter, when she decided to leave her banking job and go back to school to acquire her teaching degree and certifications.

While working on her initial teaching certification at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, Dr. Regelski began working for the HFF as a teacher in their after school and summer programs, falling in love with the work and working with kids.

Following your Passion

Early on, Dr. Regelski knew if she was to follow her passion, she would have to decide what to do with her science degree. At the time, it was clear her work with the homeless children created the drive, passion and enthusiasm for teaching. Looking back, Dr. Regelski even suggests she is not sure she would have followed a teaching path had she not been presented the opportunity to work with homeless children and families.

From Foster Care to Nurse to Helping the World—a Story of Triumph

Dr. Regelski remains in close contact with many of her current and past students, mostly on social media. In just her second year of teaching, Dr. Regelski shared the story of a struggling student (for the purposes of this article named, Zoey). Zoey was a foster child, bouncing from home-to-home during her young life and sophomore year in high school. Hard as this would be for any child, Zoey was often taking care of herself, trying to remain with a younger brother, maintaining some kind of education and simply trying to get through her own hardships at such a young age.

Dr. Regelski would attempt to seize this opportunity. As a science teacher, Dr. Regelski worked into the science curriculum the dissection of small animals, a practice seen less-and-less in our school systems, today. But, an essential component in class work at that time. In the beginning, Zoey did not want to participate. During her first semester Zoey was receiving a “D” in biology. However, Dr. Regelski convinced Zoey to participate in some way—to observe, to record findings, to be involved. It did not take long and eventually, Zoey became very engaged and even participated in the dissection process. She asked questions, studied more, compared the biology of her specimens and received escalating grades. Her passion became so infectious, she often asked to stay after school to learn more. Zoey would even tutor and encourage other children in class who were struggling or needed help. As Dr. Regelski says, “Zoey was a foster child, worried about the stresses of her life, trying to keep her little brother around, not knowing what foster home would take her—sometimes worrying if she would get a decent meal. But I knew that I needed to try harder with Zoey. This is my passion and I know that paying attention to my kids will pay dividends. Show them love, teach them new things and experiential learning, really, really care about them and even kids in the most stressful circumstances, regardless of zip code can emerge as teachers and leaders with the capacity to potentially change the world.”

Zoey eventually became a nurse and used her passion for teaching others and has become a leader. She began working with an organization to provide medical care to those in impoverished countries and began her own non-profit organization that helps educate women in Africa. It’s a fact, the power of teaching changes lives.

On Teaching responsibilities

Dr. Regelski teaches at Marian University for The Educators College and also observes her students out in the field. One such class called “Teaching in the High Schools,” is an assessment class and teaches students how to assess their own high school students, then modify their instruction based on student data. While Dr. Regelski believes in the practical need for traditional student teacher supervisors, she wants to go even further by being a Master teacher for her students. She hopes to take her teaching to the local schools, working with her student teachers to help guide them as they make decisions for their own students and classrooms. This information can then be infused into Dr. Regelski’s own courses on or off campus. Working from best practices, offering suggestions, and modifying and modeling coursework based on the data and ideas shared between master teacher and teacher candidate.

Currently, Dr. Regelski is conducting research at a large suburban high school outside of Indianapolis

In 2015, students were required to either bring their own tablet or laptop to school on a daily basis. The study investigated how using one-to-one technology would accompany traditional classroom teaching and learning. A measurement showing the effect it would have on teachers would also be studied. Surveys were given to teachers measuring performance growth over the course of a year. Then, in 2016 focus groups were conducted to determine student impact using the one-to-one technology, compared to coming from a middle school without the one-to-one technology. Preliminary results suggest there are some gains and some losses, with a focus on targeting better instructional practices instead of using only technology. Says Dr. Regelski, “If there are better ways to teach inquiry or to teach problem-based learning, then incorporate technology on top of that structure, the results may likely be better when merging the pedagogy with the technology.” The results should be available in 2017.

On Experiential Teaching

Dr. Regelski believes there is a lack of hands-on learning in our schools, today. Cited in numerous case studies, she also believes the answer lies in getting away from teaching all of the standards. Secondary teachers should prioritize the most important standards and focus more on depth than breadth. They should dig even deeper by allowing students to experience more problem-solving and inquiry. This is troubling for many educators but the belief is that ultimately, math and reading scores will rise because students are communicating with each other using problem-solving and leadership techniques.

Conclusion

Zoey was led and taught by Dr. Regelski to become a great teacher and leader. She is doing well in the world because one person believed in her, even if she may not have believed in herself. The Educators College at Marian University has this vision, too. A vision to recruit aspiring teachers and leaders to know they can change the lives of others. We are recruiting students from all walks of life, including students of color, students from the inner city, students from local schools and from abroad, young and talented women and men ready to take on the world as teachers and leaders. And, our faculty is comprised of the best talent and most passionate individuals in Indianapolis. We are setting the stage to change the narrative of education in Indianapolis. We hope you’ll join the conversation!

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