Social Studies teacher Jessica Janish knows the Blue Valley School District.
She sat in a Blue Valley classroom from her first day of kindergarten until her final day as a senior at Blue Valley North.
She hung out with her friends at Town Center.
She went to the movies at AMC 20.
She relates to her students because she grew up in Overland Park, too. She experienced the same high school drama, homework loads and responsibilities.
Janish said she enjoys being able to connect with her students, but even in the few years time from when she was at North until now, many aspects of being a teenager have changed.
“The culture is totally different, but I mean a lot of that is just technology,” she said. “I had one of the first cell phones that ever came out, before that it was just pagers. Socially, you made plans during the week for your weekend, and your plans were definite. You looked up where the movie was and you knew where you were going to be.”
Janish said she faced some challenges as a student in the district a few years ago that she doesn’t really see in her students today.
Part of her biggest struggle was fitting in. She said, in her high school experience, her peers placed a lot more emphasis on money than she sees now.
“There seemed to be a socioeconomic status at each of the schools then and it was felt among the student body,” she said. “I felt when I was there it was much more difficult to fit in than I feel like here. Or, what was ‘in’ had a lot to do with materialistic things, and I don’t feel that as much here. I’m sure it depends on the person. I’m sure there is someone who went to North at the same time I did, loved it and never felt that way.”
Sophomore Meggie Hadley said Janish usually relates stories from her time in high school to her students. She said Janish talks a lot in class about time management and heavy homework loads.
“We can understand her more and relate to her more as a person than just a teacher,” Hadley said. “She definitely is understanding of the work we have in that class and she doesn’t put that much on us.”
Hadley said her class has a lot of respect for Janish because of her personality and her ability to relate to her students.
“She’s easy-going and relaxed,” Hadley said. “She’s a good teacher but can also do her work. She takes her time when she teaches us.”
Janish said part of the challenge when she was in high school was dealing with some peers who placed a heavier emphasis on what someone had rather than who they were.
She said one of her peers even judged her based off of where she lived in the area.
“With the girl who said I lived on the ‘wrong side of Metcalf,’ I did feel like an outcast,” she said.
Janish said today what she sees in her classes are a lot of very accepting students who care about academics and value tradition in their community.
“I find it fun and exciting to be here, and you just didn’t get that vibe at Blue Valley North,” she said. “More than tradition, it was a community feel. At Blue Valley, the parent community, the student community, all the people who donate stuff to sports teams — everyone is all on the same page.”
She said, in general, she loves Blue Valley schools because the attitude toward challenging academics matched her parent’s expectation for a quality education.
“Education is something that was really valued in my family, so I’ve always been told that it is important to get an education,” she said. “My parents and I were pleased with the fact that everybody around in the district felt the same way, and helped achieve that high standard as well. It was kind of nice to be taught that education is valued at home and continue that at school.”