Get to Know: Jen Dalbey, Mentor
Subject: English (including Journalism and Debate), Social Sciences, Government, Economics
Years Teaching Overall: 23 years, with experience teaching high school, college, and corporate training and development
Joined Quest Forward Academy: 2017
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
Jen Dalbey: My “specialization” is communication. When I was teaching in the Communication School, as well as in a variety of courses I taught in businesses, I continually had students/participants say “Why didn’t I learn this in high school, it would have made my life much easier.” I finally bit the bullet, went back to school, earned a Master’s Degree in Teaching, and accepted my first position teaching high school.
How did you come to mentor at Quest Forward Academy?
JD: I was approached by a recruiter. After a few discussions, I was intrigued by the approach to education. I have always been an “applied knowledge and skills” teacher, so my teaching style fit right in. In addition, my diverse background experience added relevancy to the classroom.
What’s something you would want a prospective parent to know?
JD: Quest Forward Academies help students learn how to function in a setting that more resembles a work environment. Students aren’t lined up in chairs, listening to lectures, taking notes. They are actively participating in their education, finding solutions to problems — real-world problems.
Quest Forward also opens up students to explore on their own accord. Students are able to choose projects based on topics that interest them, and tie that into academic content.
What do you like most about mentoring at Quest Forward Academy?
JD: Our school is much more student-driven than teacher-centric. Learning is focused on student development and mastery of usable skills that stretch across a multitude of disciplines. As a teacher, you know you are making a positive impact on lives.
Another avenue of mentoring at the Academy that I enjoy is the open dialogue we have with the students. As a communication teacher, I focus on having difficult conversations. So we discuss openly, and debate cordially but with conviction. It’s a skill that takes practice. But I truly believe it is a necessity in life whether you’re dealing with a co-worker, boss, or family member.
Adding a personal spin to history not only livens up discussions, but also shows students how personally relevant history can be. – Jen Dalbey
How has your approach to teaching shifted at Quest Forward Academy?
JD: There is a major shift in focus at Quest Forward Academy. The focus is on applying and improving skills, not the memorization of content. Content is used as the medium to learn skills, for example understanding bias or extracting evidence to support an argument. Mentors really loosen control of the classroom to empower students to take charge of their learning, and ultimately take charge of their own life.
Additionally, giving students a well-rounded education makes for adept citizens. Helping them to establish good habits, for example managing themselves or communicating and collaborating, benefits students long-term. They are skills that are required for college, in trades, or in the business community.
Do you have outside talents or hobbies that you bring into your mentoring? How have you integrated your own interests into your classes?
JD: As an English mentor, my focus is on non-fiction, as my background is in journalism. I enjoy photography and art, so I bleed those subjects in when and where they are applicable. For example, [when we learn about] pastiche in English.
In Social Sciences, I often discuss ancestry and how it is connected (as many of us come from immigrants in this country). Genealogy has become a hobby of mine. My family has been in the country for a very long time. For example, I have ancestors who were involved in the Salem Witch Trials, the Colonial Trade/Shipping industry, even as far back as the Frankish Empire.
Adding a personal spin to history not only livens up discussions, but also shows students how personally relevant history can be.
Are there any additional ways you are active at Quest Forward Academy outside of being a mentor?
JD: Outside of the class I currently coach Forensics, both speech and debate, I oversee the yearbook staff, and have established a student-tutoring program. Additionally, I am Mentor Coach for Quest Forward Academy Omaha, assisting with professional development here.
I also had the opportunity to assist with new mentor development at Girard College in Philadelphia. Mentor Coaches help give guidance to new mentors regarding the shift to a Quest Forward Learning, focusing on skills instead of memorization, as well as teaching positive habits (student self-management, group communication, peer support, etc).
What’s one of your favorite moments from teaching at Quest Forward Academy?
JD: Quest Forward Academy encourages group learning. One of my favorite moments was during an English Class, a student was rewriting a paper and had used a word over and over again – and again! I explained to the student that it was repetitive and should work to find synonyms of the word.
He was struggling, so the class began shouting out synonyms randomly and he began to quickly write them down. Overall, students really chime in to help other students when they don’t understand. As the best way to learn is to teach, we encourage students to help each other as needed.
Read more interviews with mentors and students at Quest Forward Academy and team members at Opportunity Education here.
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