When Jessica Molter was in high school growing up in Michigan, she told her dad that she wanted to be a teacher, just like him. Fine, he said, but go spend time in a classroom first. So Molter volunteered at her local elementary school.
“My dad pretty much thought I would do that and go, ‘Oh no, that’s too much work, I’m not going to do that,’” Molter said. “But I loved it.”
Molter has been doing it ever since, including the past eight years at Kelly Mill Elementary School, where she currently teaches fifth-grade.
Molter, who was selected the Forsyth County News’ Teacher of the Month for May by the community, talked with the FCN about the differences between Michigan and Georgia, how she stayed connected with her students during the pandemic, and her crocheting skills.
What’s the difference between school in Michigan and Georgia?
“I would say the biggest thing I noticed from Michigan to here … there’s a big difference in the counties down here. In Forsyth County, we expect a lot out of our kids. We want them to do well, so we expect them to be reading at a certain level. A lot of times when you have expectations for kids and you do the right things with those expectations, they’ll rise to meet them. But I’ve noticed a lot of times when they’re coming from other counties, we’ve really got to help them get where we expect kids in Forsyth County to be.
Probably a lot more snow days in Michigan too?
“The thing is in Michigan, we’ve got a lot of snow trucks, and it takes a lot of snow to cancel school. And then down here it just doesn’t take much at all.
“People ask me, ‘Don’t you miss the snow?’ And I’m like, ‘No, because you have to drive in it.’ And there were quite a few times I slid off the road and went into a ditch and had to wait for somebody to get you. I don’t miss that.”
How did maintain a strong connection with your students during online learning in the spring?
“We would do little dance parties. Or we had a pet day where they would show off their pet. Or we had crazy hat day, or crazy pajamas.
“When we did projects, we’d have a day where they could show their favorite part of their project with everybody.
“What really got a positive response from the kids is where they got to show off things to their friends and feel like they were interacting again. That of course was the biggest issue; they couldn’t see their friends like they had before.”
What was the coolest pet someone had?
“I’m pretty sure they were just dogs and cats. We had a hamster. One of them tried to show off their little sister as a pet, but I said that doesn’t count.”
What do you enjoy outside of teaching?
“I love history. I’m always trying to read different books. Right now, I’m reading a book about Reconstruction called ‘Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow.’ But that probably does go back to teaching, doesn’t it?
“I’m really into technology. I do the robotics club at Kelly Mill. We started that this past year, which has been really cool. But my daughter has robots so we’ll put some together and play around with those which is fun.
“And crochet; I do a lot of crocheting. For my class, I crocheted a baby yoda after ‘The Mandalorian’ came out. I think it turned out pretty cute.”
What do you love most about teaching?
“I know this is going to sound corny, but it’s true -- I see teaching as a calling for me instead of just a job. I put so much into my classroom and my kids, and when they’re with me, they’re my kids, and I love them, and I want what’s best for them, and I just can’t imagine not having a time when I do that.
“There’s nothing I could do better. Some people are meant to be doctors and some people are meant to be lawyers. I feel like I was just meant to teach kids. Even when I started teaching and was just teaching science, the big thing was I didn’t want to just teach science. I love everything. I’m a huge reader. I’m a big science nerd. I go to the science symposiums and stuff to learn new things. I’m a big history person. I worked at the county office a lot to help with different resources with that. I love teaching everything and showing these kids, especially in elementary school, how it all goes together.
“I can't imagine doing anything else. This just feels like what I was meant to do.”