When Jennifer Rutherford ’04 joined Community School as a sixth grader from Connecticut in 1995, she made a promise to her East Coast friends. She said, “I promised my friends I would be back in one year. I think I spent one day in the Valley before realizing I never wanted to leave, and I’m still trying to find a way back to Idaho!”
Having made the journey back east, Jennifer today works as a Lower School Literacy and Math Specialist at the Nashoba Brooks School in Boston, Massachusetts, where she has been since 2013. She works closely with second and third grade teachers and students to empower math instruction, help implement curriculum, offer targeted student support, and support parents. She looks back on the teachers she had as one of the inspirations behind her career path in education. She also learned many of the skills she utilizes on a daily basis in the classroom.
“I think, as a teacher, I now look back and think about how all the teachers and administrators at Community School had generous open door policies,” Jennifer said. “Not only did they open their doors, but they were also were actively involved in a very natural way. I don’t think I realized just how unique this was, and how this created such a strong sense of community that led to a very trusting environment. I learned that a teacher isn’t just someone who knows information and wants to share it, they are also advocates, advisors, mentors, challengers, guides, confidantes, coaches, and students in their own way.”
Outdoor trips also taught her skills she uses to work with others in the classroom. “These trips are where I learned what it meant to be part of a team, to trust oneself and others, to overcome a challenge, to adapt, and to appreciate the earth,” Jennifer explained. “These values guide me everyday in my professional and personal life, and I only wish every child could learn in this manner.”
During her time as a Cutthroat, Jennifer was an athlete, an actor, and a leader. After graduating in 2004, she headed to Maine’s Colby College and earned her BS in psychology and education in addition to playing varsity soccer and club rugby. She earned her masters in elementary education from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Following a stint in human behavior research, she found herself drawn back to the classroom and she could not be happier.
“I love the way young kids interact with the world,” said Jennifer, who recently married husband, Tim. “Watch them at recess; they are carefree. Listen to them ask questions; they are curious. Catch them advocating for themselves; they are unfiltered. Allow them to fall; they are resilient. Kids embody who adults forget to be sometimes, and I love this reminder as a teacher.”