Jessica Lewis-Nicori

Featured Employee: Jessica Lewis-Nicori
Posted on 03/08/2022
Jessica L

LKSD has amazing individuals helping enrich the lives of youth around the YK Delta.  We’ll be highlighting staff throughout the year so our communities can learn the commitment and diverse skills our staff share with our students every day. Follow along to learn more about our staff and educators.

Jessica Lewis-Nicori 

 

What is your background? Where did you grow up?

 

I grew up in Chefornak, and am Yup'ik. I grew up collecting edible plants, medicinal and usable plants, and working on fish and game that was caught by my late dad. It helped me when science finally clicked for me in college to have this background in which I was immersed and part of the ecosystem.

 

How long have you been working with LKSD?

 

I have been with LKSD for 3 years. This is my first year teaching secondary science.

 

What is the best part about working with LKSD students?

 

These students are my family, figuratively and literally. They are growing up in the same way I am, so it is very easy for me to tie in our similar schema into teaching science. They are bright and make connections I would not have made myself! It is also great that they are bilingual -  we speak Yup'ik and English and I can teach them concepts in Yup'ik as well.

 

What inspired you to work in education?

 

I have a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, but have no experience due to having had kids while I was in college. My husband has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fisheries Biology, with a minor in English. We had a deal that he would complete his summer internships while I stayed with the kids in Chefornak, working on fish and game and collecting edible, medicinal, useful plants and allowing my children to experience how I grew up.

 

What’s a memorable moment from your work in LKSD that made you a better educator?

 

Feedback from master teachers - I had two mentor teachers (I know, so spoiled!) and they were both master teachers in their fields. Mrs. Billy was a master science teacher, and Mrs. Van Dyck was a master language arts teacher. Their feedback, and them critiquing and providing constructive comments helped me to hone in on where I needed to be preparation-wise and organization-wise. Talking with and working with the other educators in the building is usually how I make my lessons more student-friendly and more effective.

 

What’s something surprising about your job?

 

I love being able to show students phenomena and wondering which phenomenon is going to make them awe-struck. I am also surprised at how much I like teaching science. I did not originally want to teach!!

 

How is your school unique from other schools and student bodies?

 

Caputnguaq High School is still bilingual, my students still hunt and fish and collect ice for drinking. I actually have cousins that I teach who had to show me where to go to collect ice. One had to help me fill my buckets because I don't usually pick for ice. My students are unique in that they are living between two worlds even more than I was - they're still helping by hunting, gathering, and working on fish and game at home, while also creating content on internet apps, helping their parents and grandparents with video calls, and will hopefully be even more technology savvy than I am!

 

Tell us a story about your approach to education.

 

Before I teach a lesson, I try to imagine all the schema my students might have and check my own background. I then choose a story that my students might know or have experienced before to activate their prior knowledge. This is where students usually surprise me by telling their own stories, as I let them share when I can tell something has clicked. My stories are usually about when we are out collecting edible plants or fishing, as we can just walk into the tundra and pretty much be where the berries, greens, and animals are. The young men usually have more experience, which doesn't surprise me, and the young women will often go out more during our summers. Once I know they have activated their prior knowledge or have a base of some sort to build upon, I start adding layers of new knowledge on top of what they know. My mentor teachers showed me how to provide Thinking Maps and other graphic organizers to help my students to take better notes than even I took in high school, so we take lots of Thinking Maps and graphic organizer notes. I then usually ask for a diagram or drawing to summarize what they have learned, with a few sentences to explain their art. About half of the dialogue happens in Yup'ik, when I can find the correct words and experiences. 

 

My district uses the SIOP framework, so this also helps me to organize the lesson into specific chunks where schemas are activated or created, and then built upon. 

 

What keeps you coming back year after year?

 

My goal is to teach the next scientist from Chefornak. I want my students to see that when they want something and work hard toward getting it, they can do whatever they want. I had excellent adults in my life, and I want to be an excellent adult for my students to imitate and surpass.

Quyana.

 

Jessica Lewis-Nicori is a junior high and high school science teacher at Chaputnguak & Amaqigciq Schools in Chefornak.

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