Educator Feature: Jessica Pickens
Reading Intervention Teacher and COREN AMPLIFY Facilitator
“Jessica continues to empower, educate, and promotescultural practices to ensure our systems and practices evolve to meet the needs of all.”
Jessica Pickens is a Reading Intervention Teacher at Hugh Hartman Elementary School. She is also COREN’s AMPLIFY Facilitator and works hard to support educators of color across Central Oregon!
Tell us a little about what you do and where you work?
I am a Reading Intervention Teacher in a bilingual school. With the help of my incredible support staff, I provide targeted reading instruction in English and Spanish to students who could use some extra love and support to become biliterate readers. I also partner with the families who participate in my program to provide access to the resources, family engagement, and education necessary to best support their children’s success and growth from home. Reading opens so many doors for children. I work hard to help students develop the skills necessary to become readers in hopes that they see the value of intellectual curiosity and adventure! My students and their families deserve so much, and I love that I am in a position to work in partnership with them towards successful outcomes.
As a Latinx educator, I have found my calling in bilingual education. I am so proud to serve students in a program that sees their cultural and linguistic diversity as an asset in classrooms and seeks ways to leverage that asset to cultivate students who are bilingual, biliterate, and socioculturally aware of the world around them.
It’s Hispanic Heritage Month! What does it mean to you to be a Latinx educator?
I love Hispanic Heritage Month because it is a time to celebrate the contributions and impacts made by the Latinx community. I love seeing the culturally rich art projects and inspiring reports adorning the walls of my school this time of year. Latinidad is an important part of my personal identity, and I feel so much genuine pride in sharing my lived experience with some of my students and celebrating the differences we have as well. Hispanic Heritage Month is a time where I get to share about my Mexican heritage, while also learning about the beauty, strength, and triumphs of other aspects of Latin American culture.
What are your favorite ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage in the classroom?
My favorite way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage in the classroom is by finding literature that celebrates stories and characters who authentically represent my students and their families. I was in high school when I first read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, and that was the first time I felt genuinely connected to literature in an authentic way. My students deserve to see themselves in literature before they enter high school. I love to feature my favorite books with Latinx characters and stories during Hispanic Heritage Month, and keep a culturally rich classroom library where students can expand their repertoire of diverse perspectives all year round.
Why is it important that we support educators of color in Central Oregon?
It is important to support educators of color in Central Oregon because representation matters and diversifying the teacher workforce is a win for everyone. Acknowledging and celebrating what makes us unique is a great way for us to become more empathetic. When students from historically underrepresented groups have an opportunity to have a teacher who they feel represents their identity, it creates a culture of belonging and inclusivity. Having the ability to understand the lived experiences of my students of color through my own experiences has made it easier to break barriers with students and families who haven’t always felt like there was a place for them in the educational system. All students and families deserve a champion in the educational system and I see incredible BIPOC teachers all over our region who inspire me with the ways they support their students and families.
Can you tell us how you got involved with AMPLIFY and why it’s a valuable experience for BIPOC educators?
I became involved with AMPLIFY through my participation in the coordinating body of COREN. It is a place for BIPOC educators to build community and make sure that our stories and voices are heard in this region so that we can build a supportive community for teachers who are culturally and linguistically diverse and find ways to support them to stay in the profession. I have had an abundance of opportunity to grow professionally through the support of folks who helped me leverage my assets, and my desire is to see the AMPLIFY community build a support network so that we can encourage even more BIPOC educators to become leaders in the pursuit of equitable outcomes for all students.
Join Jessica and the AMPLIFY Community!
AMPLIFY is open to all teachers of color and prospective teachers of color.
AMPLIFY hosts regular gatherings to support educators of color throughout the school year!