All of the real-life Wonder Women we feature are amazing and inspiring, each special in her own way. But today’s #RLWW is extra special to me, as I’ve known her since she was born. I actually attended HER baby shower!
Through the years, I’ve watched her grow into a remarkable adult. She may be all grown up, but she hasn’t lost her signature “sparkle” and her always-positive outlook. She now shares these superpowers (and many more!) with the “tiny humans” in her kindergarten classroom, teaching them life skills while loving them for who they are.
They are lucky kids to have Ms. Gibson in their classroom.
And you are lucky readers as you get to “meet” Jenna today!
KR: Please tell us about what brings you joy and fulfillment.
JG: Helping tiny humans discover their own superpowers! In Kindergarten, we phrase this question as “What fills our buckest?”, i.e. what makes us happy. Nothing fills my bucket more than watching my students soar through the school year, growing and maturing into confident, self-sufficient little leaders!
The school I teach at does not offer a PreK program, so many of my littles come in and it’s their first time in school. At the beginning of the year, there’s a strong reliance on myself as their teacher. They look to me for direction and affirmation. “Ms. Gibson, what do I do? Ms. Gibson, how? Ms. Gibson, I can’t.” It always amazes me how much these kids WANT to succeed at the age of 5!
We work hard throughout the year to learn about self confidence and believing in ourselves. By Spring, those “can’ts” turn into “cans” and those “hows” turn into “look at me!’s”. People sometimes give me that deer-in-the-headlights look when I tell them I’m a kindergarten teacher. It’s usually followed by a gaspy, “why?!” My response: it’s where magic happens.
Now, is it always unicorns and rainbows?! Of course not. There are days filled with spilled snack milk on the rainbow rug, discovering boogers on the sleeve of my new blouse, tantrums, and creative clothing art because “we were bored” (see below).
Teaching during the current pandemic has also presented a challenge. I never thought I would have to teach Zoom meeting expectations, like not going to the bathroom with iPad in hand or making sure to be fully dressed before logging on. Then again…I’ve learned to expect the unexpected! Despite not being together in our classroom this year, I still feel that magic every morning at 8:00 am when my computer screen illuminates with 26 smiling faces, still in their pajamas, ready to greet each other for Morning Meeting.
KR: We all have inner superpowers. What are some of yours?
JG: I am a very perceptive person! I pick up on things going on around myself and others. Sometimes I think I have a 6th sense because I can tell when something might happen. People also tell me I’m funny, which is the big compliment. If I can give others a laugh, it’s another bucket filler for me.
KR: Can you tell us about an influential woman in your life and how she inspired you?
JG: My mom is #1. She is the reason I went into education and where I get my passion for kids from.
My mom was a stay at home mom to my brother and me. She juggled 50+ hats while we were growing up, but perhaps the best hat of all was the teacher in her. I remember weekly library trips, bedtime stories, iSpy during car rides, and trips to places like the Children’s Museum, Munsinger Gardens, and Klinefelter Park. We were constantly on the go exploring new places. She encouraged my brother’s and my curiosities, and instilled in us a love for learning.
My mom has the most patient and giving heart I’ve ever known. Even when her tank is on empty, she somehow keeps on, keepin’ on! She is my hero and biggest inspiration.
KR: If you could have one super-human power, what would it be?
Handsdown, the ability to FLY! I love traveling. I also have a fascination with being airborne. My fiance thinks I’m nuts because I used to tell him my favorite part of a vacation was the plane ride! Maybe I was a flight attendant or pilot in my past life.
KR: What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies?
JG: I spend a lot of time with my family and future in-laws. We like to try new restaurants or cook together at home. My dad is big into smoking meats and BBQ’ing. His ribs are famous in my small town after serving them at my high school graduation party!
My fiancé and I became paw-rents at the beginning of COVID, so our 8 month-old puppy gets us outside on daily walks. Right now they are my favorite part of the day with the crisp fall air and pretty leaves. We will see how those go this winter when the temp spikes below freezing.
I also enjoy staying active. I run, bike, rollerblade, and hike. On the weekends, my friends and I like to take group fitness classes together and refuel with a yummy brunch and celebratory mimosa.
My newest hobby is beading bracelets; there’s something so rewarding about making something for yourself.
KR: Knowing what you know at this stage of your life, what words of wisdom would you give to your 20-year-old self?
JG: Gosh, that was only 5 years ago, but feels WAY longer! For anyone in their early twenties reading this, whether you are just starting out in your career or embarking on your college endeavor, please know that nothing is ever more important than your presence.
Being on your own and adulting is hard. Trying to find a balance is hard. But remember, no matter what, being you is enough.
We are very blessed in the twenty-first century to have the world at our fingertips. I think this access does, however, amplify the daily hustle and bustle and the feeling of constantly trying to do “more”.
My words of wisdom? Take a break from your study session to get coffee with a friend. That work email you got at 7:00 pm can wait until morning to be opened. It’s okay to say “no”. Pizza won’t kill you. And if you are 5 minutes late to something… well, you still showed up! It can take a self-reminder (or two, or three, or four. In fact I still have to do this), but I guarantee you will never regret taking a moment to reset so that you can truly experience all of life’s wonders.