Jennifer Dean returns to teaching after a 10 year hiatus

Nikitha Seri, Assistant Arts&Style Editor

She took a deep breath, reaching for the door handle. Stepping inside, she looked around; the recognizable halls of Chantilly High School were as familiar to her as her love of teaching. Returning to school isn’t just for students; teachers can come back too. English teacher Jennifer Dean recently resumed her teaching career after 10 years as a stay-at-home mom. In the years she has been out of the classroom, Dean has been able to spend more time with her family. She has had three sons during this period: Wells (10), Wyatt (eight) and Boone (five).

Dean wanted to be home with her youngest son during the day, so she waited to return to her career until he no longer needed her during school hours.

“I [have] always missed teaching,” Dean said. “When my youngest went to kindergarten, I felt like it was time for me to [come] back.”

Before she left, Dean taught English 10 Honors and AP Literature and Composition. She now teaches English 9 Honors and AP Language and Composition.

“Teaching new courses is always a challenge, and many things have changed in 10 years. I enjoy the challenge and hope that it brings out the best in me,” Dean said. “I appreciate how much [my colleagues] are willing to share and guide me along the way.”

Throughout all these years, Dean still remembers why she wanted to be a teacher.

“I think the profession chose me, and I knew I wanted to be a teacher by the time I was 16 or 17,” Dean said. “It was just a [very] natural feeling; I knew I was going to pursue teaching.”

Becoming a mother has taught Dean more about working with children, but her colleagues can still observe the same compassionate characteristics as in the teacher they knew 10 years ago.

“In a way, [Dean] hasn’t changed at all.  She is still [an] unbelievably dynamic, caring [and] intelligent [person],” English department chair Mary Kay Downes said.

A mother of three herself, Downes believes that motherhood changes a person.

“Once you start seeing things through the eyes of your own children, it tends to change your perspective,” Downes said. “I think [having three kids] does nothing but enrich [her teaching].”

Dean can see matters through her students’ eyes and is understanding of their limits.

“[Her] class is really fun. She’s really nice and she understands what’s going on in our lives, freshman Shane Dux said. “[She gives] you a chance to get all your work done.”

Despite being out of the classroom for a decade, Dean still knows how to engage her students.

“[Mrs. Dean] really slows down and then takes the whole subject apart and helps us look at things closely,” junior Jennifer Cheung said. “[She] helps us shape our writing styles and techniques, [and] she has a really good way of going over [readings] with us.”

Dean looks forward to a successful year at Chantilly.

“This is such an awesome school. It feels great [to be back],” Dean said. “I’m really tired, but I have a lot of energy for the job, so it [is] great, even though it’s one day at a time.”