Photography has always been more than a job; it’s been my passion and a way to bring to joy to others. When I am able to capture these precious glimpses in time, I can feel it in my soul, and it motivates me to do more and be more for each of my KJP families. In summer of 2016 ,what started as a way to better my career and get published turned into much, more more. Being a part of Beauty Revived’s Most Beautiful Teachers campaign and meeting this family was one of the most moving shoots I’ve ever had the pleasure to photograph. Beauty Revived works with photographers worldwide to shine light on women making a difference within their communities, and Jessica exemplifies everything about this. Please read more about this amazing teacher, mother, wife and friend.
Special Thanks to Lyons Township High School, Tate’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shop, and our beautiful downtown La Grange area for the perfect setting, and to Vintage Charm for assistance with styling. And of course thank you to Beauty Revived.
MEET JESSICA. SHE IS ONE OF BEAUTY REVIVED’s 50 MOST BEAUTIFUL TEACHERS
“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Jessica loves discussing literature in a self-proclaimed “geeky” way. That is why it’s so fitting to start her story with a quote from one of her favorite authors. For the past 13 years at Lyons Township High School in La Grange, IL, she has had the chance to “geek out” with her freshman English students.
Jessica is certified in French, Social Science, Administration, and Middle School education. She was supposed to teach French upon starting her career, and at the last minute she switched to English. It is a great thing she did because after all these years she is still reinventing lessons to put them in a meaningful context and keep her class engaged. She encourages creativity and finds ways to allow students to think critically. New and different interpretations of literature are welcomed throughout her classes, and she gets excited when a student changes her perspective. She finds a way to connect, whether that is with a personalized letter to each student at the end of the year, or her use of food; a lot of food. It’s that type of relationship that brings her students back to visit after graduation, or come up and share a random story after class.
To understand a large part of what drives Jessica, you have to know her daughter, Emmy, short for Emerson and named after the author. Today Emmy is a spunky six-year-old who loves Disney Princesses, playing outside with her friends, and is embracing kindergarten this year. It’s a huge accomplishment after what happened when Emmy was 18 months old. Emmy went to bed with a fever, which spiked to dangerous levels, and after a visit to the E.R. she was immediately transferred to Loyola Children’s Hospital. Emmy was in Loyola Children’s ICU for six-months, near death on multiple occasions, followed by additional time living at a rehab center. Jessica never left her side, moving in with her husband, Brian, to Ronald McDonald House at Loyola and then to the rehab center. Emmy sustained brain damage, which has Jessica constantly investigating new treatments and jumping through hoops needed to get Emmy the *best* care possible. Last summer, in loo of a summer vacation, Jessica, Brian and Emmy drove to Boston so Emmy could become a patient at the world-renowned Boston Children’s Hospital, which is considered the best center in the world for Emmy’s brain injuries. Emmy is a living example of the power of Jessica’s strength, resolve, and quiet ferocity.
Jessica has a profound appreciation for Ronald McDonald House after all they did to help her family through the one of their toughest times. To Jessica, RMH makes a place and situation that is so far from home or a sense of home feel like…home. She remembers all too well how helpless and, sometimes, hopeless she felt when she was there, and wants to be there however she can for the families going through something similar. She strives to do something for Ronald McDonald House at least once every month, and is often cooking for families there. She has even involved her friends and neighbors help with meals and a toy drive for the kids who stay at RMH.
Her generous heart has found more ways to give selflessly. She still finds time to volunteer at Buddy’s Place through Pillars, which provides support for kids who have experienced the death of a loved one. She meets once a week with support groups for 8 weeks in the fall and spring, as well as a monthly group. They start with dinner then help people to discuss their grief to whatever extent they are comfortable through artwork, discussion and other activities. A few weeks ago they released monarch butterflies. After learning about and playing with the butterflies, the families whispered something they wanted to say to their loved one before releasing their butterfly. It was symbolic, cathartic and fun for the kids. She has learned so much from Buddy’s place and is most grateful to understand how to better support her students who have experienced or who are experiencing loss, and she wants to be there for them however she can.
Jessica goes above and beyond for her family, her students and those in need time and time again, and what an honor to meet her and her family. Ralph Waldo Emerson might say this again after hearing her story: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
That is Jessica, and she is the embodiment of Beauty Revived.