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Teacher Feature Interview

Meet Mrs. Euclide – YC English Teacher, Parent & Alumna

An award-winning English teacher, Mrs. Jill Euclide is also a proud YC alumna and parent. While not every York Catholic faculty member has quite so many direct ties to our school community, Mrs. Euclide’s commitment to student success exemplifies an approach that is common among all of our dedicated teachers. Recently, we asked her to share her unique insights into what makes YC such a special place. Read on as we catch up with Mrs. Euclide on her love of teaching, memorable moments in and out of the classroom, and all things YC.

What do you love most about teaching? Generally, as a career, and at YC specifically?

The thing I love about teaching is working with kids. I love seeing them figure out how their brains work — those light bulb moments that tell me that something is sinking in and the knowledge that despite what they felt when they walked in my door in August, they can do anything I am asking them to do. This is especially powerful in my kids who don’t realize just how smart they are because they have not met with success in the past. I love working with them and seeing them realize, especially as seniors, that they have it in them but may need to do it a different way from some of their peers. Part of that is getting those kids comfortable enough in my room to take risks — to be real and vulnerable — and to try new things. It’s a process, for sure!

At YC, I love teaching because of my colleagues. They are all as invested as I am in making sure our kids learn and grow. No one is here to get a paycheck or to check boxes and go home.

I also love that I can talk about my own faith walk in the classroom. It is not something I talk about all the time, but when it comes up, I can share it openly with the kids.

How would you describe the culture at YC?

Caring and open. Kids who struggle to find a place in their old schools can find a place here. We model traditional Christian values, and at the core of that is love. I’m not saying it’s perfect in any way, but there is a level of expectation for respect here that cannot be held, for a number of reasons, in other schools.

I would also say there is an expectation for education — a work ethic here that does not exist elsewhere. Students expect to be assigned work; they complete homework. And obviously, that level of responsibility increases as they grow older, and the expectation among YC students is this is school first, and it is a place of learning.

What would a visitor to your classroom expect to see on a typical school day?

My students could better answer this one (and I asked them when trying to answer this)! Honestly, it depends on the day and the work we are reading. There is always discussion — we English folk like to talk a lot about books! Sometimes we begin with grammar/revision-related materials; we talk about whatever text we are reading or paper we are writing. If we’re learning new concepts, I might teach a mini-lesson on a new concept. I often have students engage in small group discussion and bring that to bigger class discussions. I try to create an atmosphere of openness and respect. There is usually time for silent working toward the end of the period.

What is your approach to engaging students in learning at YC?

I start on day one, and it is very intentional — from the way my room is decorated before students even arrive to seating arrangements and first day of school team-building activities. I greet my kids at the door every day — and see them out. My mother-in-law once told me that she was always cheerful with her kids at breakfast because they might not have anyone else smile or tell them to have a good day. That stuck with me. My students don’t always see their parents in the morning — but they see me!

My first units are very student-centered to allow students to interact and process with each other, for me to float and work with small groups, and then to bring the discussion back to the big group. It allows for one-on-one time and for me to get to know everyone better. I have a great memory for faces and names, for the details they share about their lives in class and on their “getting to know you” pages. I am also a parent of teenagers, so I’m really clued into their lives and what home might look like for some in terms of the ability to get things accomplished for many reasons. I try to be flexible and understand that they have lives outside of my classroom.

I also understand that learning is not easy for everyone. Two of my children have learning challenges, and they taught me well that what looks like laziness and an “attitude” are not what they appear to be. Kids are good at masking what is happening underneath their exteriors, and sometimes, all it takes is a little wiggle room and a lack of judgment to turn a kid around. I set my expectations high, and most will at least attempt to make the bar. If nothing else, peer pressure keeps them turning in work!

What sets the YC education experience apart?

Connection for sure. That’s the thing that meant everything to me as a student and the thing I spend the most time on as a teacher. One of my professors at York College, Dr. DeSantis, closes many of his emails to his students with this: “As always, I am at your service.” He means it — and that is what I think our teachers are here to do as well — serve the students sitting at the desks in front of us. We do our best to meet them where they are and challenge them to learn and grow academically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s the whole deal. I am privileged to work with these kids, and I always keep in mind that they are someone’s prized possession. It frames the whole day out differently.

 “We truly are not teachers of knowledge; we are teachers of hearts, and in Catholic education, we are teachers of souls. We are teachers of someone’s prized possession, and just as a director takes a play from a playwright and molds his actors, we as teachers direct not only the lines and actions of our students in the stages of their lives, but also in the development of their whole characters.”

-Mrs. Jill Euclide, from her Golden Apple award acceptance speech

Describe a particularly memorable project or student achievement you’ve been part of.

Perhaps my best moments with my students are working with those who struggle to find their voices. Many of our struggling students have been told for a long time that they are “not good at English.” What they actually struggle with is figuring out how their brains work. Sometimes, helping them means talking through their paper topics, having me scribe for them, or simply sitting with them while they work to assist when they need it. Seeing their hard work result in something that looks like complex ideas knitted together in paragraphs — while not perfect — is rewarding.

I also do some non-conventional work with Play-Doh, Lego, and blocks that help kids organize their thought patterns and clarify what they really want to say about a topic. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I worked with a student two years ago, Jaiden N., who struggled a lot to organize his thoughts. He did a block-build about one of the characters in a play, and I kept challenging him to dig deeper. He kept thinking and building, and by the end of the period, he had a huge piece — and the material for a fantastic essay. It was just what he needed. After that, he started “acing” in-class and out-of-class essays. It was in there the whole time; he just had to figure out how to tap into those complex thoughts. 

Most of the time, it doesn’t come that easily, especially for kids who struggle — but just seeing the appreciation in their eyes when we have lunch and work on an essay or when I sit down during a prep period with them — it’s enough to know that it matters. The little pieces I am doing are helping them to grow and learn.

Did you have a mentor when you began teaching at YC? If so, could you share a bit about how that teacher’s mentorship shaped your approach/impacted your career?

Peg Allton, my English teacher at YC, was my inspiration to teach. My relationship with her as a high school student got me through some really tough times, and I wanted to be that for someone else. When I started teaching, Terri Eline, another iconic English teacher from YC, was my mentor in the teaching world. Both prioritized having strong relationships with students as part of what they did in a time (the early 90s) when that wasn’t seen as important to student success as it is now.

What is a piece of advice or “words of wisdom” you would share with prospective students and their families?

Dare to let yourself be known—really known—for who you are. Be a presence and make a space for yourself. There is a place for everyone to grow and learn here.

What teams/clubs/activities did you belong to/participate in as a student?

Yearbook, Band (clarinet), Marching Band Drum Major, National Honor Society, Literary Magazine, Spanish Club, musical. I also played volleyball (rather poorly!) for one year.

What are you currently reading? And what books/stories are in your top favorites of all time?

My current venture is Poldark. I heard the series on Prime is good and want to read it before I watch. My favorite author is Jodi Picoult, and my all-time favorite series is Outlander (Diana Gabaldon). In terms of more “literary” pieces, I’m a huge fan of Toni Morrison and the poet Rainer Maria Rilke.

The book that has inspired my life path the most is Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I use a quote from that book as a reflection with my students at the start of the year, and I show them a piece on vulnerability when we talk about how to fight -isms after reading Elie Wiesel’s Night.

Want to share a “fun fact” about yourself?

I love to dig in the dirt, and mulching is one of my favorite outside chores. I’m [also] a runner. My husband and I love to tent camp with (and without) our kids, and my favorite place to be is anywhere outside.

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