Coming Back Home for Mrs. Jacobs
Her walking stick helps get her through the busy hallways of Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA), the very ones she once roamed as a student. The voices of her colleagues and students become the paths that guide her throughout the building and in between classes. What may feel like a foreign world to many new teachers feels like home for Mrs. Jacobs.
This being her first year teaching at FSSA, Mrs. Jacobs assists with various academic subjects as a learning specialist. Before her teaching career began, Mrs. Jacobs was a vocal major at FSSA in the graduating class of 2010.
However, Mrs. Jacobs knows all too well the challenges of not only being in high school, but being visually impaired, as well. Mrs. Jacobs went blind a year before she started high school while facing retina cancer.
Being blind brings with it many challenges that Mrs. Jacobs fiercely overcame in high school and as a teacher inside and outside of the school building.
“Most people haven’t met a blind person and it’s not their fault. You deal with people grabbing you on the subway or students talking to you really loud because when you’re blind they think you’re deaf, too. People tend to lump all disabilities together. I had to learn how to do things all over again, I was very visible by nature,” said Mrs. Jacobs.
In relation to teaching a class, some challenges she encounters include hearing the cues of students who raise their hands (which she discloses beforehand they might be waiting a while) along with patience within herself sometimes. These challenges however allow Mrs. Jacobs to find other ways of accomplishing the same tasks.
“You learn how to pick up on other cues, so I use my auditory senses a lot. If there is something a kid wants to show me they’ll have to describe it, but I use technology and visual aids in my classroom all the time, and that’s why we have language so we can bridge that barrier,” she said.
The teaching profession wasn’t always something Jacobs was certain she would go into.
“When I graduated from high school I didn’t see myself becoming a teacher. I was a science major in college, and worked in a lab for a while. Then I thought about what the next steps were when I was applying to grad school,” she said.
Her idea of becoming a scientist was put on pause as Mrs. Jacobs began thinking about all the adults who impacted her high school career, like FSSA history teacher Mr. Lange, as she faced new challenges that others didn’t need to worry about.
“I thought about the adults in my life, I thought about Mr. Lange and I wanted to do that for someone else, so I applied for a teaching program,” she said.
Mrs. Jacobs teaches a number of classes in different subjects on a daily basis. Ranging from English to Math, Mrs. Jacobs is the learning specialist in the classroom for a variety of teachers in the building. In regards to her favorite subject, her background in science puts that at the top of her list.
“I love teaching English, I love teaching History, but my favorite subject to teach is probably Science. I was a science teacher first and a science major in college,” she said.
Mrs. Jacobs’ optimistic force on herself has allowed her to see how much of an impact her condition can have on her students.
“My first year of teaching, I worked with a student who had very severe dyslexia to the point where he was not able to read on his own. I remember when he and I started working together he wouldn’t read at all. When he saw I don’t read with my eyes he started to unclamp a little bit and gradually I was able to get him to read bits and pieces mostly just with me. There was one project that I gave the students in Earth Science and when it came time to actually present the project he read it on his own really slow and that touched me,” she said.
She also realizes how important an education in the arts can be for students, being that she is an FSSA graduate.
“I was able to really, pun intended, find my voice at FSSA, because I was able to release stress or anxiety through my art form, here,” she said.
Mrs. Jacobs continues to develop her teaching skills at FSSA and even practices her vocal skills at home with her husband just for fun.
– by Giselle Ramos 18