After I read Miss VanDamme’s articles on educational philosophy and watched videos detailing the school’s art appreciation classes, I was convinced that this was the place I could become the type of teacher I wanted to be. It became my dream to someday work at the school—a dream now realized.”

Jackie Blum

Literature, Math, & Grammar
VDA Teacher Since 2013

Tell me a little bit about your personal and educational background.

I grew up in a suburb of Sacramento, California where I attended private school through 8th grade and then a public high school. I had a thirst for learning at a young age and enjoyed many of the aspects of the education I received at the private school. I loved practicing phonics, diagramming sentences, and identifying Greek and Latin roots. I was engaged by the history and literature curriculum, particularly in middle school. There were, however, some definite drawbacks to the school. Besides the poor math and science curriculum, the school had a harsh environment and a policy of corporal punishment. When I transitioned to public school, I was glad to be in a friendlier environment, but I was disappointed with how little I was learning. Because of my experiences in such different schools, I became deeply interested in understanding a proper philosophy of education. So, when I decided to become a teacher, I chose to focus my study on the developmental stages of the mind, and I graduated with a BA in Psychology. While I learned some valuable information in college, the bulk of my knowledge has come from a self-motivated, self-directed study: whether of books on pedagogy, college lecture courses, Miss VanDamme’s articles, or, most important, my time here at VanDamme Academy. Even before I was hired as Mrs. Watkins’s temporary replacement, I spent any time I had off from my full-time job observing classes at VDA, because I hoped to learn the principles of the curriculum developed by the teachers and the pedagogical techniques they employ.

When and why did you decide to become a teacher?

I decided I wanted to become a teacher when I was 15 years old. I joined a class offered at my high school in which students worked at a local elementary school. After my first week working in the classroom, my lifelong plans to become a journalist were gone, never to return. I enjoyed being around the children and was captivated by the challenge that teaching in front of the classroom presented. When I found out that the class was offered only in the fall semester, I petitioned for an internship in the spring and continued to work in the classroom about 20 hours a week for the rest of my time in high school.

What brought you to VanDamme Academy?

In 2010, I was talking to a friend about my own educational experiences and career aspirations. When I told him that I was afraid that the kind of school where I wanted to work might not even exist, he said, “Have you heard of VanDamme Academy?” I immediately went to the school’s website and learned about the curriculum. After I read Miss VanDamme’s articles on educational philosophy and watched videos detailing the school’s art appreciation classes, I was convinced that this was the place I could become the type of teacher I wanted to be. It became my dream to someday work at the school—a dream now realized.

If you specialize in a particular subject area, why did you choose that specialty?

I teach a variety of subjects (currently four), and I wouldn't want it any other way. I enjoy getting to be creative in coming up with ways to help the students understand different types of information. I'd love to eventually teach each subject at least once. Right now I teach math, grammar, spelling, and literature. Math, grammar, and spelling are orderly and systematic subjects, and I enjoy optimizing the organization of the material and presenting it in a logical and interesting way to the students. In literature, I love selecting great stories for the class to read and discussing the exciting, thought-provoking, and emotional moments with the students. There is one book in each of my classes that always makes me cry, and the students are always quick to help me by grabbing a box of tissues or reading for me when I'm too choked up.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching?

My favorite thing about teaching is getting to work with the same groups of children over a period of many years. It is a pleasure to see the students grow and change during their time in my classes. I have had the pleasure of getting to teach some of the most sweet, thoughtful, and hardworking students around, and I try to cherish every moment I have with them because they grow up so fast! My second favorite thing about teaching is designing curriculum materials. I'm so fortunate to work at a school where we teachers are able to create and develop our own curriculum over the span of our professional careers. It makes the work that much more fulfilling.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love Crossfit and try to get in the gym as often as I can. I love making stuff, and graphic design has always been a hobby of mine, so I jump at any opportunity I can to design anything (including this website)! I love to listen to audiobooks (mostly fiction and biographies) and inspirational podcasts. I could not be more delighted to live near Disneyland and can be found there frequently. My sister attends Chapman University, so I love to spend time with her whenever I get a chance. One thing I'd like to more of is travel the world. I've never been to a U.S. city I didn't like in some way, but I've never been out of the country. That needs to change!