When students choose to have their lunch in your classroom, just so they can spend more time with you, you know they’ve found a safe space and a true partner in their education.
Meet Jami Baumer, an educator who has focused her work on building personal student relationships in her work with Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (iJAG) at Davenport Central High School in Davenport, Iowa.
iJAG is an organization that partners with Iowa schools to deliver career development programming, and is a partner organization for Alpaca. iJAG’s educators are called “Specialists” because of their unique and highly trained ability to deliver leadership training, career education, individualized guidance and employer services for middle and high school students across Iowa. iJAG is rooted in serving “Every Student. No Matter What!” to reflect their proven abilities to unlock student potential, help students graduate and facilitate successful transitions to postsecondary education, work or military.
This year, Baumer is one of the two educators honored with the prestigious 2023 Outstanding Specialist of the Year award by JAG, Iowa’s national affiliate that includes 39 state organizations. Jami was one of two Iowa educators to receive the honor and part of a class of nearly 80 recipients nationwide. She was recognized specifically for the bonds she has created with her students. Frequently, students will eat lunch in her classroom as opposed to the lunchroom just to spend more time with her throughout the day.
Baumer is known for going above and beyond for her students. For instance, when one student didn’t have a suitable shirt to attend a leadership conference, and the classroom closet didn’t have his size, she headed out and bought him a shirt. “Many of my students face barriers - but I never want that to hold them back.” When transportation was an issue, Jami found creative ways to facilitate field trips by walking to nearby businesses and bringing in local entrepreneurs.
Baumer’s iJAG classroom provides a unique opportunity to discover student’s individual interests. Baumer does a fish bowl exercise where each student contributes 3-4 careers they may be interested in. She then reaches out to local businesses and contacts to find speakers and tours. Students have mock interviews and learn other job readiness skills, with the employers they are most interested in.
Empowering students with the skills to pursue their interests and receive real-world experience can really make a difference. Last spring when Jami had a very shy and introverted student in class, she discovered he loved animals and working with pets. She brought in an employer connection in the field and now the student job shadows there once a month. Baumer explains: “Through the opportunity, his demeanor has changed. He is more outspoken, confident and mature.”
“I really enjoy working with youth. Growing up my parents were both educators. My dad was a mentor that gave back to the community and that always inspired me. Giving back to the community is where my passion comes from.”
Baumer believes that building relationships with students is key to successful learning. She shares that tools to connect with students can be as simple as greeting them at the door and making yourself known and available. Showing up and following through go a long way with gaining trust with students - and building their leadership skills along the way!