Jessica Veulema: Education the only career right for me

Published 5:41 am Friday, April 19, 2024

By Emily Burleigh

Jessica Veuleman has a gift for instilling the love of writing in her fifth-grade students.

She has taught fifth-grade English language arts for 11 years at LeBleu Settlement Elementary. In those years, she has found the last year of elementary school is a critical time to ensure students gain an appreciation for the subject.

“I find that fifth grade is that make-or-break moment for promoting a love of the English language. Teaching fifth-grade ELA can be challenging at times, but that is why I love it so much!”

Veuleman is a Lake Charles native who attended elementary and middle school at J.I. Watson and graduated from Iowa High School.

While in grade school, she struggled and found math and English “especially challenging.” However, she was taught by educators who were committed to nurturing a healthy appreciation for education in her. This was especially true for her English teachers.

“I was blessed to have had two exceptional English teachers who instilled in me the love of writing. This affected my decision to be an educator because I have a deep understanding of skills and strategies that worked for me along the way.”

She went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from McNeese State University and later earned a micro-credential in teacher mentorship.

At LeBleu Settlement, she is also on the school’s leadership committee and is the student council sponsor. She also serves as a new teacher mentor.

Her teaching techniques are modeled after the teachers who molded her, and Veuleman has determined that education is the only career right for her.

The best part of teaching for Veuleman is the opportunity to witness student growth from the beginning of the year to the end.

She maintains high expectations for her students to ensure they master the skills needed to succeed in the next chapter of their academic journey — middle school — and beyond.

Veuleman believes education builds a community and allows it to “progress and thrive” because of the opportunities available for educated adults.

“It enables individuals to give back and create better economic standing and growth.”

A clear path to success hinges on the “growth mindset.” This practice is vital for both students and teachers and is bolstered by positive thinking and student engagement, she said. She is happy knowing that her work as a teacher contributes to the future of Southwest Louisiana.

“I love knowing what I do in the classroom makes a difference in the world.”

She and her students become “very connected” throughout the school year. The bonds she forms with them are so deep that many former students email her or visit her classroom to talk to her about their lives, she said.

“We chat about our day, our lives, and our goals. The bond between teacher and student is extremely strong. There are a lot of tears at the end of the school year.”

Her classroom is filled with “a lot of laughter” and “many smiles.” Veuleman said she makes students feel safe and welcomed because she is always willing to listen to how they feel.

“The environment is very open and ran in a democratic fashion with student-centered learning being a key concept. Every student has a voice and understands the value of high expectations.”

The field of education is not for everyone, but is nonetheless rewarding, she explained.

“The pay is low, the hours are long, and at times the burdens can be heavy; however, the rewards are much greater. Above all else, what other career gives hugs, smiles, and hearts drawn on construction paper just to show love and appreciation?”