Jessica Pagtulingan decided she would become an educator when she was a sixth-grader in Mrs. Lori Fujimoto’s class at Kapalama Elementary School.
“I had a great teacher who inspired me and so I knew what I was going to pursue,” Jessica said of Mrs. Fujimoto, who’s still teaching at Kapalama today.
“It’s the way that she talked to us. She was able to see me and my classmates for who we were, and she encouraged each and every one of us to be better.”
Today, Jessica teaches 5th grade at Queen Kaahumanu Elementary School, incorporating the values she learned from Mrs. Fujimoto about expressing empathy and compassion for her students and dedicating her life to being a teacher. “I teach my heart out with my kids now,” she said.
Students can be inspired to become teachers when they have a Mrs. Fujimoto in their lives, Jessica said. She’s trying to pay it forward. “Like how I was inspired by my sixth grade teacher, I think that one teacher may spark something and hopefully inspire them to think about wanting to become a teacher themselves.”
As a sophomore, Jessica joined the Farrington High School Teaching Academy which gave her the opportunity to step into an elementary school classroom and experience firsthand what it is like to be a teacher.
“What I liked about the Teaching Academy was that it gave me an opportunity to start putting myself in the shoes of an actual teacher and think about what it might be like when it would become my turn to have my own classroom,” Jessica said.
While part of the academy, she won a $100 savings bond for having the best mock teaching portfolio through HEA’s Teaching As a Career (TAAC) program, which aims to encourage students to enter the education field and partners with the teaching academies at Hawaii public schools.
Jessica values the opportunity to encourage her own students to become teachers and she participated in an HEA forum on how to attract more youths into the profession. Her suggestion is to offer teaching academy programs at an earlier age than high school.
“Whatever it takes to increase our teacher population, I’m all for it.”
Among the things that Jessica is looking forward to is being able to speak with former students to see how they have progressed after their time with her. “My first group of kids, they’re going to be freshmen next year so I can’t wait to hear their stories. I’m excited to learn about their journeys as they embark on high school.”