1997 Boettcher Scholar Jessica Cuthbertson: Teacher, Tweeter and “Edu-geek”

1997 Boettcher Scholar Jessica Cuthbertson: Teacher, Tweeter and “Edu-geek”

Jessica Cuthbertson, 1997 Boettcher Scholar, is an award-winning eighth-grade English teacher in Aurora Public Schools who has crafted a career as a teacher, instructional coach, and social media activist.

Growing up in Rocky Ford in the 1980s, Jessica’s future in education was shaped by her parents and teachers. Mrs. DeLeon gave Jessica a strong foundation as an early reader and the chance to mentor and learn from bilingual students in a K-2 classroom community. Jessica’s middle school social studies teacher, Mrs. Bartolo, arranged a day at The Denver Post to foster Jessica’s interest in journalism.

“Key teachers at the right time kept my love of learning alive and made me want to pursue a career in education, even though that’s not what I originally planned to do,” Jessica said.

After graduating from Regis University in 2001, Jessica completed a year-long fellowship with the Boettcher Foundation, where she worked in outreach and communications for the Boettcher Scholarship. It was there that her passions coalesced, and she was inspired to pursue a career in public education: “Traveling the state fueled a desire to teach and advocate for Colorado schools and students.”

As a National Board-Certified Teacher and self-described “edu-geek” who enjoys adolescent literature as much as her students, Jessica is committed to the growth of “budding journalists” in her eighth-grade class and to elevating the voices of educators across the country, who she believes are often excluded from decisions that impact them. Jessica is an active Twitter influencer, moderator, and writer whose thoughts on education innovation, policy, and equity have been published in Education Week, Chalkbeat and Smithsonian magazines.

Jessica attributes much of her voice as an advocate to her time as a “teacherpreneur” with the Center for Teaching Quality, a position that allowed her to teach part-time while engaging in teacher leadership and high-level policy work. Through the center, Jessica discovered that social media, particularly Twitter, is one of the best tools for continued learning.

“The reason I’ve been in education for 15 years is because I can write about classroom experiences, education policy, and systemic issues,” she said. “These conversations keep me engaged as a learner and a citizen, and they also make me a better teacher. My students see that I’m learning and working alongside them.”

In addition to teaching and blogging, Jessica is active in her parish and on the Aurora Public Schools’ strategic taskforce, where she advocates for English-language learners representing more than 140 nationalities. Additionally, she is co-facilitating a pilot program to support 20 rural Colorado teachers in attaining their National Board certification as part of a teacher retention strategy for the state.

Jessica credits this service ethic to her small-town upbringing, faith, and mission-driven education at Regis, which was supported by a Boettcher Scholarship.

“As a result of the Boettcher Scholarship, I was able to attend Regis, my top in-state choice of college,” she said. “Their mission of ‘men and women in the service of others,’ combined with 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.”

Recently, Jessica has encountered an even more formative experience for her identity as an educator and advocate: becoming a mother to a current first grader who she and her husband recently adopted from Ethiopia in February of 2017.

“Becoming a parent has fundamentally changed me as a teacher. As a mom, I’ve grasped how much parents trust that teachers are doing their best – and as a teacher it’s my obligation to do right by their children.”

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