‘A Sense Of Life’
Educator Implores Students To Seek Adventure
Jennifer Lumia has spent much of her life in a classroom, yet her primary message to students is one she hopes inspires them to go outside of it.
“I try and instill in my students a sense of life,” Jennifer Lumia, a Jamestown High School biology teacher, told The Post-Journal during a recent interview. “That no matter what’s going on in your life, education is a means to adventure. That there’s a big world out there that you can be a part of. You should fill your life with moments of heightened emotion and experience.”
The message from the 20-year Jamestown teacher holds true in her own life, too. One of her hobbies and goals, outside of the classroom, is to visit at least 61 of the country’s national parks before retirement. Thus far, she’s made it to more than 20.
“There’s a big world out there. I want to see it,” she reiterated.
Lumia has been with the Jamestown Public Schools District for two decades and previously taught in the city of Chicago Public Schools system. Currently, she teaches two sections of advanced placement biology and two sections of an English as a New Language biology class.
Lumia was also accepted into the New York State Master Teacher Program in 2016 after an almost eight-month application process. New York State created the Master Teacher Program for public school teachers throughout the state in 2013. There are more than 900 master teachers and almost 300 master teachers emeritus, which is given to educators who have been in the program for four years.
Much of the program is focused around Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM. New York state teachers in grades K-12, who instruct STEM and computer science, are eligible for the program. The program follows a professional-learning model that highlights STEM content, pedagogy and knowledge of students, families and communities.
Lumia, who just completed her third year in the program, admitted that applying for the state program was another method of challenging herself academically. Through the program she has now become a published author, attends various professional development events and receives a yearly stipend for the first four years in the program.
While Lumia never envisioned becoming a teacher at a young age, she admitted that there has been an clear push toward the education field.
“When I reflect upon the trajectory my life took, I really think that I had always gone to school,” Lumia said. “It was difficult to place myself anywhere other than school. That was what school prepared me for was more school. I think today we offer students a lot more experience with professions, but it just seemed to me that I was comfortable in and had a good experience in all levels of school. That was just the natural progression my life took.”
She graduated from Mayville High School in 1994. Later, she earned an associate degree from Jamestown Community College and received both her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the State University of New York at Fredonia. While adding a concentration in secondary education to her studies later on, her focus has always been biology.
Growing up in rural Mayville possibly contributed to her fascination with the environment, she said.
“I always liked the outdoors,” she said. “I always liked the outdoors. I was curious. I wanted to name and collect things. So, I think that’s why I wound up in the life sciences. I played outdoors. I hiked in the woods. I had leaf collections and bird nest collections, and it was a terrible mess. So, that’s where the biology came in. The education piece was just a lifetime of really influential educators.”
Despite never going on many family vacations as a child, Lumia developed an itch for seeing the world. In lieu of expensive trips during her childhood, Lumia said her parents never missed sporting events, musical concerts, parent-teacher conferences or open houses.
“My parents gave me the gift of love and attention,” she added.
At Mayville High School, however, she was able to travel to France through her French class. Since that trip, she has been “hooked” on traveling with more adventures to U.S. National Parks; Argentina; London, England; Costa Rica; and a tour of Europe. For the last decade, her focus has shifted to primarily exploring the U.S. Just recently, she was able to visit Joshua Tree National Park in California for the first time.
Much like her message to students, her life doesn’t just occur in a classroom. Lumia said her summers are for spending time with her family and oftentimes for visiting national parks inching closer to her goal.
Ultimately, Lumia hopes her drive for adventure wears off on students as it once had for her in a high school French class.
“I want you to learn something, but I understand that this isn’t the only thing weighing on your mind,” she said sitting inside her JHS classroom. “There’s a big world out there. Take advantage of it.”