Jessica Elliot joins the WA staff


Erin Cragg

Jessica Elliot standing outside of her classroom, excited for the new year.

Erin Cragg, Staff Writer

New academic tutorial teacher Jessica Elliot has joined the Westford Academy staff this year. After attending WA as a student, she is excited to return for her first teaching position.

Q: Could you just briefly describe what your job is? 

A: I am the new academic tutorial teacher. I help students with things like organization, time management, turning in assignments, study skills, and test-taking strategies, things like that. And really, I’m just teaching them skills that’ll help them succeed at WA, in college, and a career, and giving them time to get work done.

Q: Is this your first job working in a school system? 

A: This is my first teaching job, but I have worked as a teaching assistant for three years. I did one year at Littleton High School, and I did two years at Lexington High School, and then last year, I did a practicum or like an internship for school counseling.  I was earning my masters in school counseling, and I did that at Concord Carlisle High School.

Q: What made you interested in coming to Westford Academy? 

A: I am a Westford Academy graduate myself, I graduated in 2012. And so when I was looking for jobs, I was originally looking for a school counseling job because that’s what I had just graduated with masters, but those jobs are really hard to find, and with the pandemic going on, I was like, you know what, I’m gonna be a little more open-minded and see what else is out there. I started looking for this type of job, like teaching a study skills type of class, and I saw Westford Academy [a job opening] and I was like, I loved it here. I loved my time at Westford Academy. It’s a great place to work. Everyone is so nice. And it seems like a really good place to keep gaining experience. So I applied.

Q: How are you managing everything with all of the changes due to the coronavirus? 

A: Being new I think is actually working in my favor, because everything’s new. I don’t know anything different from the teacher’s perspective. So it is a challenge balancing the in-person and the online classes, but I’m just trying to look at it with an open mind and as a growing experience for me, and really trying to stay up to date with the technology as best I can. And being available for my students, whether it’s in person or on Google meet, and asking a lot of questions of my coworkers, who are awesome.

Q: How is Westford Academy different from other schools that you’ve worked in/student-taught in? 

A: I think what makes Westford Academy so great is that faculty and students alike are so kind and their work ethic is incredible. Everyone comes ready to learn and to grow and they’re genuinely excited to be here, and I think that has really shown through this pandemic that students want to be in school, and so do the teachers and we want to work together and have a good year and I think that really makes Westford Academy stand out: how positive of a community it is and how united everyone is.  

Q: Is weird to see people and be like, ‘Hey, you were my teacher’? 

A: A little bit, cause the big adjustment is switching to that first name [basis] because I’m used to being like, “Oh, hi, Mr. Kucaj”, “Hi, Mr. Cruikshank”, I’m like, ‘wait, I’m your coworker, now.’ That like, switch has been a little bit weird but it’s good, because I feel like I already know them and I can ask them questions, and I don’t feel weird about it. 

Q: How have you liked working in Westford so far?

A: I have loved it. It has been so great. I feel excited to go into work every day and see everybody, and I feel like I’ve learned so much so fast in this first month, you know, everything from the technology and working ipass, I feel like my classroom management techniques have gotten better, and helping students not only with the academics but also, you know, there’s so much anxiety going on this year and stress and it’s just been a really nice balance of a little bit of everything.

Q: How has the job been in comparison to what you had expected, in general, and with coronavirus? 

A: I mean, it is a little bit different schedule, with the online and in-person, obviously, is pretty unpredictable. Like you wouldn’t expect that from your first year teaching. And the number of emails. I don’t remember receiving this many emails as a student. Maybe it’s the addition of Chromebooks and technology in general, or maybe it’s being a teacher. Either way, I think it’s great that everyone communicates here so frequently. It really makes you feel like you’re part of the team! Another surprise, or change since I’ve been here, is how Westford Academy has really embraced social-emotional learning. I love how teachers and guidance counselors alike are working hard to promote mental health and wellbeing, especially in such a stressful situation.

Q: Where did you go to college and what was your major? 

A: So I grew up in a family of educators. My parents, my brother, they all work in special ed. So does my extended family. You know, it was always what was talked about at the dinner table, at family reunions. So I knew I wanted to pursue something in education. So I went to UMass Amherst, and I studied psychology and public health. While I was there, I was like, I really want to get involved with students as much as possible. So I also worked as a peer advisor, helping students pick classes, and also a teaching assistant for the psychology department. And I worked as a residential assistant. I was a sophomore or junior year student living in a freshman building so I could help with academics and social stuff going on in the building, and it really just reassured me that I like working with students, especially the older students like high school and college. So then after my undergrad, I then pursued my master’s degree in school counseling at Fitchburg State University. And while I did that I was doing my jobs as a teaching assistant. 

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

A: I don’t think so. I’m just really grateful to be here, honestly. And looking forward to the rest of the year, hopefully, we are able to come back fully in person someday.