Posted Date: 01/09/2021
Jessica Zaunbrecher: 2020-2021 Merryville High School Teacher of the Year
“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
This Winston Churchill quote guides Jessica R. Hickman-Zaunbrecher’s philosophy of teaching. Zaunbrecher, Agriscience teacher at Merryville High School, believes that communication, trust, and a positive attitude are the key elements for a successful relationship, including that between a teacher and a student.
“Agriculture science teachers wear many hats, engaging students, parents, colleagues, and administrators in promoting student success,” she said. “Building and maintaining positive relationships provides the foundation necessary to help my students succeed.”
Zaunbrecher is the daughter of educators who instilled in her the values of honesty, respect, kindness, and personal responsibility. She learned the importance of a good education and believes that education truly is the cornerstone for future success.
“I challenge my students to gain all the education and training they have access to and can get,” she explained. “I encourage them to gain skills training, professional education, and to just be curious and keep learning because education is the one thing that can never be taken away from you.”
Zaunbrecher, in addition to her teaching duties, is the FFA advisor, the junior high and high school 4-H sponsor, the Senior Class sponsor, and has been the graduation coach at MHS for the past ten years.
“I spend a great deal of time with my students, both inside the classroom and in extra-curricular activities,” she said. “Building those relationships over the years is one of the best things about teaching. Each student I have taught holds a special place in my heart.”
Because she spends so much time with them, Zaunbrecher sees her students through many of their teenage milestones and struggles and considers these times one of the blessings of being an educator.
“If a student comes into my class and learns solely Agriscience education, then I have not succeeded,” she states.
Zaunbrecher is the 2020-2021 Merryville High School Teacher of the Year.
She has been teaching in Beauregard Parish for twenty-three years, and has been at MHS for the past twenty years. Prior to entering education, she worked for the Louisiana Department of Social Services for seven years. She began her teaching career at East Beauregard High School for one year and then at Hyatt High School for two years before transferring to Merryville High School.
She earned her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science, her M.Ed. and Ed.S. in Educational Leadership at McNeese State University. She is certified in Vocational Agriculture grade 6-12, Biology grades 6-12, and as a School Principal, School Supervisor of Instruction, and a Supervisor of Child Welfare and Attendance.
She is CPR-certified and is a NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) Core Curriculum Instructor and a NCCER Level I Carpentry Instructor.
She is a member of the Beauregard Parish Fair Livestock Show Committee and a District Livestock Beef/Swine Committee Member. She is a member of the Louisiana Agriscience Teachers Association and a past member of Delta Kappa Gamma Society of Key Women Educators.
Her advice to new teachers is to allow for flexibility in class. Sometimes the best lessons are not included in the lesson plans.
“I value those ‘golden’ teaching moments that happen unexpectedly,” she explained “I would encourage new teachers to take advantage of them whenever they occur.”
Her favorite thing about teaching is the relationships she has formed over the years.
“It is my goal to open the minds of my students and to guide them into learning valuable life lessons,” she concluded. “The FFA motto sums it up: Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.”