Alumni Spotlight: Jenny Cooley
BA IN ELEMENTARY EDUCATION ’90
ENGLISH TEACHER AND MIDDLE SCHOOL LEARNING SPECIALIST
NEW YORK CITY
High school isn’t a breeze for everyone, and sometimes that experience inspires a career choice.
“I loved high school, but I wasn’t a fantastic student,” recalls Jenny Cooley. “I made it work.” She landed at New England College—in spite of herself, she says—and was led toward a career in teaching by NEC’s Education Department. She found the faculty to be relatable and supportive.
“NEC’s teachers were very good at telling you that you are a good kid and a good student. They truly celebrated each student for who they were. They taught me how to relate to people, and my compassion for kids who struggle really grew because of NEC.”
Jenny’s first job after NEC was at a school for special needs students. Though not profoundly disabled, her students faced learning disabilities. “They reminded me of myself, and I felt for these kids who found school to be difficult.”
Currently, Jenny doubles as English teacher and middle school learning specialist, an opportunity that brings a new dimension to her teaching life. “As my mother once said, ‘Not everyone can be a genius.’ These kids need support, and I am that person for them.”
Her most significant challenge these days is teaching full time during COVID. “I was with my students on 14th Street when 9/11 happened. And now I’m with them through COVID. Kids are remarkably resilient, and they often lead the way. They inspire me.”
Kids, her students and her own children, inspire Jenny to strive for change. “I’m progressive-minded, so I want to know as much as possible so that I continue to earn that badge and not judge people so harshly if they have different opinions. I want to be a good example for the students I teach.”
Jenny went on to earn an MA in Education and an MEd in Counseling Psychology, both from Columbia University.
This story was published in the Spring 2021 issue of the New England College Magazine.
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