This is the first Mom of the Month interview I haven’t done in person, but Jennifer’s bright and enthusiastic personality shines through bright and clear. She is the mom of two young children, passionate about her job as a school counselor, and a hard core MELT fan. Check out her great insights below…she’ll make you want to make the best out of any situation!
Jennifer’s Runitlikeamom Run-down:
* I have two kids, a 3 1/2 year old daughter and an 8 month old son.
* I work at a high school as a school counselor. I work with students on the academic, career and social/emotional components of their life. I do a great deal of goal setting, helping students make plans that will help them be academically successful, manage crisis situations and work with students on exploring colleges and or careers that interest them.
I completed my under grad at St. Joe’s in West Hartford for Special Education and Elementary Education and taught elementary school for a short time. I then completed a masters degree in counseling at Central CT. I love working in the schools! It is exciting to help students set goals and see them be successful!
* I really enjoy being active! I belong to an awesome gym MELT. They offer group training in a bootcamp style class. Belonging to a place like this requires planning! With work and the kids it is SO easy to forget about time for myself. This time is me time, my happy hour!!! This last spring I ran my first 5k! I am not a runner!!!! But it was an important fundraising event for me, and I loved having something to work towards! Also trying to incorporate a family piece, after dinner each night I get the kiddos changed into their PJ’s and we take a neighborhood walk to wind down before bed. It has become a fun little routine!
* In terms of fitness goals…ultimately I want to be healthy! And who doesn’t want to feel good and look good too! I like having a challenge. So signing up for an organized walk or run such as the Relay for Life or the Purple Stride has been great motivation!
* Oh my goodness, lately my daughter as been telling me all the things she is going to do when she “grows up.” These things consist of chewing blue gum, wearing lipgloss, wearing high heels!
* If stranded on an island with my children I would bring…My husband, a solar powered ipad, and a 5 star hotel on the opposite side of the island!
* My favorite indulgences are chocolate, sushi, and Louie Vuitton!
What made you shift from teaching in an elementary school to being a high school counselor?
I never thought I’d be working in a high school! Morning meetings and connecting with kids through after school activities showed me how much relationships with kids makes a difference in their academic achievement and behavior. I had kids with discipline issues in other classrooms earning time in my classroom. I started thinking about other ways to help make a difference for kids and thought school counseling would be a perfect career… There are very few elementary school counselors… So a required full time internship in a high school was what got me here. I loved it! I work in a high school that is all about empowering kids to take the lead in their education so everyday is exciting!!!
How do you think working in schools had helped (and maybe “hurt”?) you as a parent?
I definitely learn a lot by watching parents make decisions with or for their kids and seeing the outcomes. At the high school parents and students do a lot of reflecting on the past as they plan for the future.
I see how unpredictable things happen to families, and what a difference believing in your child no matter what makes to them. Supporting who they are is key.
There have been a lot of eye opening experiences. I guess you have to try your hardest as your children are growing to teach them to be independent thinkers and make good choices. Then when they are up against something difficult they can hopefully navigate through that! But there are also some fantastic things kids are doing too. Some really unbelievable kids out there. I love celebrating student successes no matter how small! Getting to know how hard students work for something and seeing them achieve it is so exciting. Students will pop in my office and say “guess what!” with awesome news. For one student it might be an achievement another would think nothing of. I always want to be able to celebrate the little things with my own children too. Overall I have had a really positive experience working in the schools so I am really excited for the opportunities students have today!
What are the biggest challenges and rewards of your job?
As a school counselor I get to be a part of helping students reach their social, academic and career goals. This can be really challenging for some students. It is very hard to watch students struggle. For some students school is great. They get it academically and socially. They are driven and incredibly successful. They enjoy the structure of the high school environment. I also work with students that face challenges academically everyday. They have lost their drive. These kids also work incredibly hard, however their successes aren’t always as obvious. As a school counselor, everyday I encounter a student who is doing something outstanding, but they don’t always realize it. I feel like if I can help a student discover their passion and help them get closer to being able to do something with it they will feel pretty awesome! Sometimes its the little victories that are the most rewarding to see with students. I know that there will be a better day for the kids that have difficulty today, so getting them to that day can be challenging but it is so worth it! Im lucky to work in a district that is very serious about everyone finding success. I feel very supported by the team of professionals I work with. We are making HUGE changes to what learning looks like in the district I work in. I really think students are going to be more excited about learning, feel more successful and get some pretty unique learning opportunities out of it! It will be very exciting to see what is next for students!
How was your first 5K?! Which race was it?
I did the Purple Stride for Pancreatic Cancer. It was tough! In Meriden… I practiced around my neighborhood… The first half was UP HILL!!! But the second half was down so… I made it! I felt so good afterwards because I had participated!!! I ran with friends so that was great too! If I am running for a particular cause I remind myself that there is someone out there, for example, battling cancer and I am whining about a few mile run, I better kick butt! I’ve done a bunch of walks like the March for Babies and The Relay for Life. The run was tough! I’ll definitely do more!
It’s not easy to carve out family time, and make it active on top of that- it’s great that you incorporate fitness and family…do you have any tips for other moms looking to do something active with their kids? Especially when they’re on the younger side like your two?
I have a friend at work who began running with his young son, not in the stroller but side by side. Now he and his kids run 5k’s together all the time. It seemed great they had something special like that, and he was helping his kid build a healthy interest! Sometimes my daughter likes to be in the stroller next to the baby, but other times I can get her to run alongside! It’s not always easy getting out there each night, sometimes it’s quite a negotiation with my toddler! It would be easier to cozy up on the couch for sure!!! So making it a routine is key. Also, meeting another family out or another mommy out is great! Again, those fundraising events are usually kid friendly and involving them is easy. For example the March for Babies is all about kids!
Anything else you would like to share with us? Some Mommy wisdom?
It’s funny the ideas I had about being a mom before I was one! I was going to have a natural child birth, breast feed, be a stay at home mom (so my kids weren’t in daycare), I would take my kids to mommy and me groups and being a mom would be just wonderful. Well, I had a c section, formula fed the kids, I’m a working mom, my kids go to daycare (an amazing one), my husband actually goes to the mommy and me classes and the being a mom thing, it’s tough!!!!! Turns out my c section was fantastic, my kids are super healthy even though they were formula fed. Found the best child care center ever and my kids are even more amazing than I could have imagined as a result!!! And by the way, it’s not that bad being a working mom! I’ve learned to rely on others. But carving out the me time is super hard. When I’m not working I just want to be with the kids allllll the time and make it special. It would be easy to let my fitness plan go. So I actually put it in my calendar!
Well said Jen! We can’t thank you enough for taking the time out of your day to be our Mom of the Month. Your dedication to your family and community are inspiring. Here’s to running it like only moms can… and we hope to see you at your next 5k!
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