By Kate Anslinger
Jillian Indelicato found an atmosphere similar to her hometown in the halls of Winthrop High School. The Tewksbury native feels that Winthrop is a lot like the small town she grew up in, where she was taught by the same teachers who taught several of her relatives. She shares a bit about her background, her love of traveling and how she transformed from a bossy little girl to a dedicated teacher.
Tell us about your earlier years…
Growing up in Tewksbury reminds me a lot of Winthrop. My parents and all of my extended relatives grew up there as well, so when I went through the school system myself, my teachers had already taught several of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. My last name is a difficult one to forget. My parents were high school sweethearts, and it honestly was the happiest home for my younger sister and me to grow up in. We admire our parent’s undeniable love for one another every single day.
I attended Tewksbury Memorial High School, and then once I graduated, I attended Framingham State University to earn my bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education. All throughout college I wanted to do study abroad, but the opportunity never presented itself as my course load was a little too intense. So when I reached my final semester of college, and graduate school became a reality, I decided to pack up my whole life and fly to a country I had never been to before to enroll in a master’s program. I spent a year in England attending the University of Leicester, and graduated in 2012 with a dual master’s degree in modern literature and creative writing. It was the greatest year of my life, not only learning the skills to become a novelist, but being able to travel to over 14 countries and being exposed to so many different cultures. Once I graduated, I decided I wasn’t quite ready to go home, and I still had a little money to sustain the adventure, so I moved to Italy for six months.
Once I came home, a little smarter and a lot poorer, I wasn’t ready to commit to teaching, so I spent a few years developing my own company and working in sales for an international education company. When an opening became available at Winthrop High School four years ago, I decided to dive back into the classroom to see if it was my true calling. It turns out it was.
Did you always want to be a teacher?
My parents like to joke that they always knew I was going to be a teacher. Apparently as a kid I used to set up chairs and makeshift desks in the living room and help my sister with her homework. I would be the “bossy” teacher and hold the ruler very assertively. I would put stickers on her work and write her little encouraging notes.
Even though they always knew I wanted to be a teacher, I do think I lost my way a little bit after college. I enjoyed teaching, but I didn’t know if it was exactly what I wanted to spend every day doing. Like most made my love for teaching stronger and I know for certainty this is the occupation I am meant to be doing.
If you weren’t a teacher, what other profession could you see yourself doing?
It’s funny…I tell the kids all the time that if I wasn’t a teacher, I would’ve been a prenatal nurse. Originally, when I first started out in college, I knew I wanted to be in a career that helped people. I just wanted to come to work every day and make a difference. I was split in half trying to decide if nursing or teaching was the more suitable career path. After coming to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be able to cope with potential loss on a daily basis, I decided teaching was a better fit.
Is there someone who inspired you to teach?
I had some really wonderful teachers, especially English teachers who inspired and challenged me throughout my academic career. I always respected the tougher, stricter teachers, who pushed me to improve, and I think as a result that translates to my own teaching style. Every teacher and professor that found the balance between strict and compassionate, funny but stern always seemed to connect with me. As a result, I try to do the same with my own students. I want students to come back to me years later, saying your class was tough, but I became a better writer and student because of it.
Do your students inspire you?
Literally every single day these amazing kids inspire me. I tend to feel like another mom to them, and watching them all grow and mature over the years makes me unbelievably proud to be their teacher. These kids work tirelessly to balance heavy course loads, jobs, extra-curricular activities. Watching them develop their work ethic and grow into caring globally aware students is irreplaceable. I think the moments that inspire me the most are when a student suddenly gets a concept or skill we are working on, and their entire face lights up. It reminds me to be proud of the little victories life has to offer because they are just as important as the big ones.