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The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

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The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

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Flashback Friday: Spanish teacher Jessica Verweyst

Spanish+teacher+Jessica+Verweyest+stands+in+front+of+her+Hispanic-themed+classroom%2C+decorated+to+show+her+love+for+the+culture.+Verweyest+fell+in+love+with+the+Spanish+language+through+her++travels+to+various+Hispanic+countries+after+high+school.+%E2%80%9CI+lived+in+Colombia+over+one+summer%2C+and+then+I+received+a+scholarship+through+the+Youth+Rotary+Club+to+live+in+Ecuador+as+a+gap+year.+Those+immersive+experiences+encouraged+me+to+continue+to+speak+Spanish.+In+Ecuador%2C+I+had+the+opportunity+to+do+some+volunteer+work.+I+worked+with+an+underprivileged+group+of+children+between+the+ages+of+five+and+15+to+teach+them+English.+That+opened+my+eyes+to+the+difficulties+of+communication+and+turned+me+to+wanting+to+teach+Spanish%2C%E2%80%9D+Verweyst+said.+
Sakenah Lajkem
Spanish teacher Jessica Verweyest stands in front of her Hispanic-themed classroom, decorated to show her love for the culture. Verweyest fell in love with the Spanish language through her travels to various Hispanic countries after high school. “I lived in Colombia over one summer, and then I received a scholarship through the Youth Rotary Club to live in Ecuador as a gap year. Those immersive experiences encouraged me to continue to speak Spanish. In Ecuador, I had the opportunity to do some volunteer work. I worked with an underprivileged group of children between the ages of five and 15 to teach them English. That opened my eyes to the difficulties of communication and turned me to wanting to teach Spanish,” Verweyst said.
Spanish teacher Jessica Verweyst plays a game of charades for her birthday party. In her younger years, Verweyst was known to have a very specific sense of style. “I really loved that dress [and] I loved to wear hats and big bows in my hair. Yellow is my favorite color, so this [dress] was something that my parents would have to fight for me to take off because I wore it all the time,” Verweyst said. (Used with permission of Jessica Verweyst)

What school did you go to?

I went to Edgar Road Elementary School in the Webster Groves School District. Then, I went to Steger Sixth Grade Center, Hixson Middle School and Webster Groves High School. 

How was your childhood home life?

[My childhood home life] was good. I’m one of five kids. At one point in time, my family took guardianship of my cousin, so there were six of us in the home. Until I was 13, we were one family; it was super fun. My siblings and I are all less than 16 months apart [so] it was always very busy. We always had friends over [too]; my mom used to call it a zoo because there would almost always be 10 people in the house. As soon as one person had a friend over, everyone else asked, and [soon] there were 12 kids [at the house]. It was fun to have people that close in age to confide in. 

What has changed, what hasn’t?

As a parent myself, especially with social media and technology, screens are something that I’m struggling with now that I didn’t have to struggle with as a kid. My parents divorced when I was 13, so I took on a bigger role helping around the house [and] helping my younger siblings with their homework and bath times. We spent a lot of time outside, didn’t wear shoes [and] drank from a hose. Home screens were not a battle. Now, I have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old at home with screens, and it’s difficult to play that line between a good, educational tool or a way to remove my child from whatever situation [in which] they’re misbehaving.  It’s hard to use it as an educational tool versus a reward. Of course, there are things now that families are more aware of. There’s more information we know about health, raising children, mental development and mental illness. We’re more careful about those things, but I remember being more carefree as a child; now as a parent, all the worries in the world are on me. 

When did you know you wanted to be a teacher and teach this subject?

I had an amazing teacher, Mr. Wilmering, and he was the most animated person. He made everything so exciting to learn, and [from then on], I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. At first, I thought about teaching math, and then I decided I wanted to teach spelling. I had gone back and forth over childhood. When I got to high school, my freshman-year Spanish teacher, Mr. Herrera, had an incredible story about how he had to make his escape from the dictatorship in Cuba and illegally come to the United States to eventually get his citizenship and find a wife and a family. His story was so motivating and intriguing that I wanted to learn more about Hispanic culture. The drive for me was learning about food, celebrations and life in Hispanic culture. To experience the culture, I had to integrate myself , so I did a couple of study abroad [programs] in high school between junior and senior year, and that turned into experience with the language.

Tell me a childhood story that always makes you smile. 

I was probably about 10 or 11 and my little brother was a toddler. We had a wooden porch swing on our front porch and all five of us were all swinging on it [when] my brother decided to get off the swing. He was only in his diaper, and in the process of getting up, his diaper fell off. Everyone was jumping off of the porch swing, trying to get his diaper back on, and I broke it. [As] I was jumping off of the swing, I got pushed back in the whole hustle [and] went straight through the chair. I was stuck with my legs up, just swinging. That porch swing is still broken on my dad’s porch to this day. He leaves it on purpose, saying ‘That’s your trophy.’

Spanish teacher Jessica Verweyst (right) poses with her sister on the porch swing in front of her dad’s house. When they were younger, Verweyst and her sister resembled twins, partly because they looked alike and partly because they were inseparable. “[My sister’s] my partner-in-crime. We do everything together. She opened a daycare so that she could keep her child at home while also helping me with childcare. My son gets to play with her daughter and hang out with her all the time, which is super excellent to continue to reinforce those family relationships,” Verweyst said. (Used with permission of Jessica Verweyst)

What things make you nostalgic when you see/hear/smell/feel them?

My dad likes to listen to the Eagles and Billy Joel, so anytime I hear either of those bands, it makes me think of my dad. Also, we had some cabin property in the country; my great-great-grandfather built a log cabin in the ‘30s, and every spring break of my childhood, we would go down and camp there for the week. The sound of the little creek, the wildlife — wild boars, turkey,  deer — and the smell of the botanicals [make me nostalgic]. I really enjoyed being there, so much so that [the log cabin is] where my husband proposed to me.

Spanish teacher Jessica Verweyst (top right) stands for a picture with all five of her siblings. Verweyst’s mother purchased this home right after her divorce and gathered the kids together to capture a memorable moment. “[My mom] made us all get dressed up and pose. This is one of the few pictures I have from my teenage years with everyone together. Although I was a freshman or sophomore in high school and my parents were going through that divorce, it was still a happy time for us,” Verweyst said. (Used with permission of Jessica Verweyst)
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About the Contributor
Sakenah Lajkem, Staff Writer
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 12 Years on staff: 2 What is your favorite piece of literature? Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz. Who is your hero? Jesus Christ. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? My mom's mashed potatoes.
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