One of the first things you notice when you meet Theresa West is that her smile is reflected in her eyes. So filled with passion for teaching, she is likely to be remembered by students for years far beyond junior high.

For nineteen years, Theresa has been sharing her love of science with students. She began as a 3rd grade teacher in District 181 and for the past twelve years she has been at Cass Jr. High School where she has taught health to 5th and 6th graders and earth science to 5th graders. This year, she took on science classes for 6th grade students. When talking about the path that she traveled to become a teacher, in spite of her original dream, it seems destiny had other plans. “ I had no intent to be a teacher. All my friends were going into education. I wanted to be in the sciences. When I graduated with my degree in biology, I got a job working in a research lab in a university in Hyde Park. While I really enjoyed the work, it wasn’t long before I realized that this wasn’t the path for me. It really didn’t fit my personality. I needed to be with people and be more “energetic”. So, I got my Master’s in Education because at this point in my life, I knew that I needed to be in a classroom.” The rest, as they say, is history.

It is apparent that Theresa loves her students and teaching. That light in her eyes was a beacon when she spoke about the rewards of being a teacher. “I hear so many of the kids say, “Yeah! It’s science time” or “I love science”. I love it when I see the light bulb go on because I know they are learning the process of science. I also love the ongoing relationships with families. Also, being able to build a great relationship with my school team has been rewarding. We have a core group at each grade level and we are able to talk and provide as much support to our students as they need. I feel blessed to be able to work with such a great team and wonderful students. The day I stop feeling that way, I’ll know it’s time for me to stop teaching.” I think that speaks volumes about her dedication. When we talked about the partnership with the Township and our Life Skills Program, she had nothing but positive things to say about the benefits to her students.

“Life skills are essential to my health curriculum. When they come in, they have such a nice rapport with the kids. It’s relaxed and conversational which is important because sometimes they are talking about sensitive subjects. It goes hand in hand with our health curriculum and National Health Standards requirements.” The kids in the communities within the Township are important and we are so pleased that we can have this wonderful partnership with teachers like Theresa.

When she isn’t at school, Theresa has a family of her own that she likes to spend time with and have some fun. She and her husband raised their two kids, ages 18 and 17, right in this community. She gets to spend a lot of time attending volleyball and soccer games. Travel as well as getting through the list of books that she wants to read bring her enjoyment. She also likes riding her bike. It ‘s a lot of fun and it helps the home budget because she often rides it to work. Seeing her enthusiasm for life, I asked her to share a piece of advice:

“ Think about how you conduct yourself. Your words and actions are affecting young people. You’re a role model.”

Theresa, the students at Cass Jr. High are fortunate to have a teacher such as you. The Township enjoys the partnership we have with you. Thank you for all that you do.

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