17 Jan Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 1997 scholar Jessica Cuthbertson
Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova.
Scholar Year: 1997
Hometown: Rocky Ford
College(s), Degree(s), and Graduation Year(s): Regis University, B.A., Communication Arts & Sociology, 2001; University of Colorado Denver, M.A., Curriculum and Instruction, 2009; University of Denver, Morgridge College of Education, Principal Licensure, 2015; National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT)
Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation?
I currently serve on the communications team at the Center for Teaching Quality, a national nonprofit committed to ensuring a high-quality public education system for all students, driven by the bold ideas and expert practices of teachers. Prior to joining CTQ full time in 2016, I worked in K-12 public education for over 13 years and served as a middle school English teacher and learning lab host, an instructional coach and a “teacherpreneur.”
Working in public education, both within and outside the K-12 classroom, and now from the nonprofit perspective, is joyful and challenging work. Seeing growth in students and working with educators to elevate and amplify their voices are the most rewarding aspects.
What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now?
Without question, the Boettcher Foundation’s values helped shape who I am today. I believe it is vital to cultivate and retain our state’s talent and expertise, in large part because of the Boettcher Foundation’s influence. As a result of the Boettcher Scholarship, I was able to attend my top in-state choice of college, Regis University, and their mission of “men and women in the service of others” has guided my professional decisions and postgraduate endeavors.
I also worked for the Boettcher Foundation as a fellow in 2001-02, and my experiences traveling the state to speak with counselors, high school students, and parents about the scholarship inspired me to pursue a career in public education. Being a Boettcher Scholar continues to drive my commitment to working toward a more equitable public education system for all students in rural, suburban, and urban districts across our great state.
Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations, or groups outside of work.
I’m a self-proclaimed “edu-geek” so most of my involvement, unsurprisingly, is connected to the field of education. I serve on Chalkbeat Colorado’s Reader Advisory Board and follow local and national education policy closely. You can find me interacting with educators via social media, including participating in or moderating Twitter chats, webinars, and blogging roundtable discussions on any given weeknight. I also serve as the state captain of the Colorado Core Advocates, a network of passionate K-12 educators committed to standards implementation and equitable, high-quality instruction in our state’s classrooms. We are also active members of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Aurora.
Growing up in a rural area, my parents always encouraged me to pursue my passions, from community theater to journalism. They’d often quote the phrase: “Don’t do something today that you wouldn’t want to read about in tomorrow’s newspaper.” Even though we are less of a newspaper culture, I think this is great advice, especially in our social media-driven society. Their support has helped me discern, reflect, and fail forward at different crossroads in my life.
My advice for aspiring educators? Visit (and study) as many classrooms as you can, and ask for feedback (from students, colleagues, and formal evaluators) as much as possible. You’ll become a more culturally responsive teacher much quicker if you let students guide, inform, and shape your pedagogy.
If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why?
I’d love to organize many dinner parties with historical figures and thinkers from around the globe! I minored in women’s studies at Regis, and believe we’re living in a really interesting time to explore aspects of gender, sexism, and civil rights. I would probably start with an invitation to suffragists and abolitionists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I would love to thank them for their activism, learn more about the challenges they faced in their advocacy efforts, and pick their brain about contemporary social justice issues, including best practices for scaling women’s leadership in the 21st century.