Trying Something New
Everyone will face challenges in their life, big and small. It is whether or not we want to
take on those challenges and try new things or back down when things get tough. Kathy Jurgens,
a retired sixth grade educator at Maquoketa Valley, decided to spend six weeks of her time
substituting in a high school Spanish class.
After spending 34 years (1984-2018) in the education system, she was like a kid in the
candy store who could not stay away and had to come back for more! “I have wanted to be a
teacher since I was in third grade. Every teacher I had every year became my favorite teacher
ever!” excitedly announced Jurgens.
Although entering a high school Spanish class as a retired middle school social studies
teacher might seem terrifying, Jurgens took a leap of faith. “I had some trepidations about it
when Pam first asked me to do it but mostly because of the subject matter. I would have had the
same reaction if she’d ask me to do math or chemistry or anything I wasn’t that familiar with in
the high school courses. I am thoroughly enjoying it though, so I’m glad that I’m here.”
After spending some time in the high school, Jurgens explains that it is nothing to be
afraid of. She enjoys seeing the high school students each day and being able to catch up with
them and laugh. As a matter of fact, she says that she looks forward to coming back when her
grandkids grow older and take up less of her time.
Middle school differs drastically from high school. Speaking from experience, Mrs.
Jurgens realizes that the difference between the two is the level of maturity. After being given
the opportunity to teach at both levels, she cannot pick a favorite. “I enjoy both levels actually.
After subbing in the lower grades, I’ve realized I prefer fifth grade and above. I don’t feel like I
can accurately compare the two levels because I’ve never taught my own classroom full time in
the high school like I did all those years as a fifth and sixth grade teacher.”
Although she is enjoying her time here, there are a few things that make her temporary
job as a substitute difficult. She explains that some students who do not always complete their
work are the students that are extremely capable of achieving academic success. This saddens
her as kids are very talented! While some children might make the experience a struggle at times,
Jurgens knows how to handle situations like these.
Jurgens has learned many valuable skills that has helped her succeed at her job. Over the
years, she has realized that sometimes she needs to take a step back in certain situations. “Certain
students can’t help the things they do or the way they act sometimes because of what may be
going on in their homes. I tried to make my classroom a fun, welcoming, safe place for them to
hang out for a small part of the day.” She has also learned to be more patient and calm with
students. For those students doing well and working hard, Kathy gives the opportunity to her
students, to earn incentives throughout the year like a cake for perfect spelling tests all year long.
If you are planning to visit Maquoketa Valley High School anytime soon, be sure to go to
the second floor and stop in the Spanish room. Say hola to Mrs. Jurgens. Chances are, you
probably already know her or had her as a teacher. Thank her for her time and dedication to
educating the young population of this community.