Teacher profile: Jenna Berryman


Although some may think that our teachers are just people that want to ruin our days and make our lives hard by giving us homework and assignments, they can actually be pretty cool people if you really get to know about their lives and interests. For this week’s teacher profile, we decided to focus on someone that impacts a lot of freshmen and ultimately helps shape MCHS’s student body as a whole, Jenna Berryman. Berryman is known as the quirky teacher in the Freshman Wing whose spirit animal is “probably a squirrel.” Here is what she had to say (in addition to the squirrel comment): 

How has becoming a mother affected your outlook on teaching? 

Probably the biggest way is that it is easier now for me to prioritize home. Where I think school previously has definitely been a lot of times my number one priority. Now I feel like it is important for me to be more present at home and more focused on home when I am there.

How do your dogs feel now that y’all have a human child? 

They are pretty interesting. One of them definitely seems as though she is just going to pretend he [the baby] doesn’t exist, so she doesn’t pay attention to him. I think that is about to change because he is getting food now, not yet the kinds of foods he can drop for her but as soon as she does I think she is going to be a huge fan. The other dog really likes Ben, so he’s a little bit protective of Ben and really sweet about him. Like he kind of growls at us if Ben is crying, or if he thinks that we are not doing what we should be with Ben. They are somewhere between like “He’s awesome!” and “He’s not real.”  

I heard you have a complex relationship with aquatic animals. Do you care to elaborate on it? 

I really love all animals. All of the memes about “Your last words will be here kitty kitty.” I feel that in my soul because I really just want to pet everything. I guess probably like a decade ago, I got a goldfish for school, and I was so excited about it. I took really good care of it but then it died. Since then I have had a few more beta fish, and they keep dying. I am so confused because I think I take really good care of them. I have a tank, it’s got a filter and lights. I try to keep them warm, and I read all of the directions about feeding them. They have a big space. Other kids are like, “I won a goldfish at the fair once and it lived for 4 years,” but all of mine keep dying even though I am taking really good care of them. It hurts my spirits. 

What made you want to become a teacher? 

I like school, obviously, I wouldn’t keep coming back for years and years. When I was a freshman in college my first major was journalism, and then between journalism and social studies education, there were 6 majors. When I got to my 7th major in my freshman year of college because I had taken the class, I would like the class, it was a lot of fun and if I was interested in it I would change. I was a religion major, a women’s studies major, and a human geography major. When I got to my 7th major, they made me go to career counseling, which is a great thing that I think most schools offer.  You do things like take an altitude test, which tells you the kind of fields you’re good for and the fields you’re good for and geared towards, but you also work with a career counselor who is somebody that has experience in indecisive people who don’t necessarily have a career path. When I worked with a career counselor essentially what they said was a lot of the majors I had picked my freshman year were social studies or social science majors. They suggested, “Have you considered social studies science education?”, and I was like “No, I haven’t, but I like school, so sure let’s do that.” I was good with it so I didn’t change my major again. But that was early my sophomore year and I think it gets harder to change your major, so I think I decided “I can study all of those things in social studies education.” I wasn’t thinking through those things that generally high schools only offer like history and civics. I like civics.

What is your favorite thing about teaching freshmen? 

Freshmen are weird, and I am kind of weird. But I really really love how freshmen are in this perfect place between childhood and adulthood, so there are a lot of things that y’all are willing to do. Like sing happy birthday to your peers, or talk to me about things that are going on. You’re not as generally angsty or serious as your peers a little bit later in the game, and you’re not in middle school which seems truly terrible for everyone involved: kids, parents, all of them. Freshmen have an interesting energy, and a lot of people don’t like you guys. But I think when you really get to know freshmen, for the most part, they’re decent humans. One of my favorite things is, freshmen do a lot of really stupid things. That’s not what I like; that’s bad. It’s what I dislike. More often than that when you talk to a freshman you are like, “That was really dumb,” and freshmen are like, “Yeah, that was dumb!” You guys often don’t try to defend the stupid thing, yall are just like, “Yeah, I shouldn’t have done that.” I really appreciate that, the willingness to admit you made a mistake because I think older kids and adults for sure just try to become entrenched in that decision and feel compelled to defend it. When really you guys are like, “Yeah, that was stupid.” I appreciate that.” 

I also think that it [Harry Potter] teaches us to be better people — like being accepting of others and kind, and I think those are things that we should always value and I always want to do better”

— Jenna Berryman

Why do you like Harry Potter so much?

‘Cause it’s awesome. Like, everybody in Harry Potter has these unique gifts, and not everybody has the same gifts. They are really optimistic about their ability to make the world better in the face of these really massive challenges. Like, this wizard is so evil we stop saying his name, and he comes back, which you know people shouldn’t be able to do when they are dead or whatever you call it. All of that is like a good reason to hide that in your basement room or attic and wait for the world to end. The central characters in Harry Potter don’t do that. They go and challenge this super evil, very bad thing. I really like their optimism because a lot of times I am a little more optimistic than I should be. I also think that it teaches us to be better people — like being accepting of others and kind, and I think those are things that we should always value and I always want to do better. 

What is a weird belief you have? 

All of them. I don’t know. I think a lot of people who are into politics feel like we will never get back to a place where things are good. I think we will, and that might be weird. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I am not like John F. Kennedy, Jr. is still alive, like, that guy is dead. Like, So is Elvis and whomever other people think is still alive, but they are probably dead. I think that the other one is: I don’t think that we should kill anything like bugs, it seems wrong. 

If there is one piece of advice you would give a first-year teacher, what would it be? 

It gets earlier. 100%! That part is so hard and not very much fun, but just stick it out for year four. 

What were you like in high school?  

A skinner version of me now. I was equally weird.  I have always been really lucky that I have always had lots of good friends. I think that I am just a bigger person than I was then. 

I wish that I knew how fast things seem when you get older”

— Jenna Berryman

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self? 

I think that I wish that I knew how fast things seem when you get older. I wish I had a way of, I don’t know, telling myself to get your memory really because life is warp speed and it gets worse the older I get. Like I know that now, I know that times are going to fly by. I really don’t know what I would do about this. Or like buy a bunch of toilet paper and buy things like that before 2020.