By Cindy Lam –
When students were asked to identify a role model at Nepean, Jessica Houghton was a popular choice.
“She’s great,” says Andrew Stevens, a grade 12 student. “She’s always there to listen when you need someone to talk to.”
Apart from teaching French, Jessica also runs the Gender Sexuality Alliance club at school. It provides an inclusive space for students to come and be themselves, whatever they may look or feel like. She believes all students should feel comfortable expressing themselves and shouldn’t be made to feel badly about it.
“Our club works to promote awareness in the school about the different sexual orientations and gender expressions that exist, not only in our school but in our community,” she says.
Jessica has had many opportunities to work with the students in the GSA. The club attends the Rainbow Youth Forum each year, which dedicates itself to LGBTQ+ celebration and awareness.
This year, Jessica and her wife were invited to speak about their experiences at school and share how teachers can help make classrooms more inclusive.
She also had an opportunity to work with students at the CORE Summit Leadership Camp last year. She was asked to run workshops on meditation, which focused upon stresses of school and life and the importance of clearing the mind.
“We live in such a busy time, where students are connected 24/7 and so it was neat to get students thinking about how beneficial disconnecting could be,” she says.
Jessica inspires students at Nepean every day. She strives to be authentic with her students and is open and honest about who she is as a teacher and a person – which she says can be a risk in a high school setting.
“At the end of the day people want to be appreciated for who they are,” she says. “It is my role and responsibility as an educator to try and make my students feel welcomed and celebrated.”
In light of International Women’s Day, she believes that everyone wants and deserves to have someone to identify with, and this day helps to raise awareness for all the amazing things women are doing. She believes in the importance of female empowerment – especially in a high school setting – and that young people should take some time to think about who they are, and not what others or society are telling them to be.
Jessica believes that self-confidence, education, and compassion are qualities that can help girls in high school feel empowered. Understanding who you are and what you stand for will help guide your choices.
Nepean High School greatly benefits from having teachers like Jessica Houghton, who provide support in an inclusive environment for students to be able to be themselves.