jessica-zahrt-teaching-2Something few people know about Jessica (Rozek) Zahrt is that she’s a twin. Jessica’s twin sister has some cognitive disabilities, and, growing up, Jessica saw how other kids sometimes picked on her. Maybe that’s why Jessica is the teacher she is today, one who not only molds little minds but also massages little hearts with the gospel, helping her students grow more kind and loving every day.

Through the MLC graduate program, Jessica has done some growing herself as well.

Jessica teaches K-1 at Our Savior’s in Wausau, Wisconsin, and, like many early childhood educators, especially multi-grade educators, her day is a highly choreographed dance. Children move from teacher-led skill-building activities to student-centered exploration centers. They use computers, do science “experiments,” explore the world in social studies, and make art. They take brain breaks with music and movement, listen to read-alouds, sing songs, go out for recess, and have quiet rest and reading time. All of this is bracketed by the all-important Bible story time, afternoon devotion, and closing prayer.

“I love what I do,” she says, “and can’t imagine being anywhere else! There’s nothing better than seeing progress in young students’ academic and social skills and watching their knowledge of God and faith in him grow!

“Especially with young children,” she continues, “I feel my role extends far beyond the book. It’s a privilege to teach them to be servants with a heart for God and his people. My daily reminder to them is ‘kind and loving.’ How should we act? ‘Kind and loving.’ What kind of words do we speak? ‘Kind and loving.’”

Jessica did not begin teaching immediately after her graduation from MLC in December 2002. She got married, started a family, and began teaching part-time only when the youngest of her three children began preschool. When all three were in school full-time, she began looking into master’s programs.

“From what I found, MLC was the best fit for me. I loved the undergrad education I had received there, which was focused on God’s Word and ministering to children and their families. I knew that the professors and my fellow students would understand me and my perspective as a called teacher at a small WELS elementary school. I believed they’d help me grow not only in my knowledge of education but also as a servant of Christ.

“MLC’s completely online format was also convenient for me as a busy mom and teacher, and from what I found, also the most economical choice for our budget. It was an easy decision!”

Another easy decision for Jessica was coupling her master’s degree courses with post-baccalaureate licensure courses. MLC’s post-baccalaureate program allows teachers who have graduated from DMLC or MLC with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree to be eligible for their initial Minnesota teaching license or add-on to an existing Minnesota license. This is especially important for teachers who graduated before 2002 or who haven’t taught in a while.

Several courses in the master’s program apply also to the post-bacc licensure program, making it easy to accomplish both at the same time. (See the MS Ed/Licensure program plans.)

Jessica calls it a two-for-one benefit for her ministry. “I wanted to get a state teacher’s license to show I have the knowledge and skills to be a professional teacher,” she says. State licensure augments her credibility as a teacher and, by extension, her school’s credibility as well.

Jessica began her MS Ed (leadership emphasis) in 2012 and graduated in 2016. “I most enjoyed the camaraderie of learning with fellow Christian teachers who are in classrooms so similar to mine! They understand our shared mission and focus in education, as well as difficulties that we sometimes encounter. These classmates, along with caring professors, encouraged me in my ministry to grow, improve, and faithfully continue to ‘run the race’” (Hebrews 12:1).

Jessica notes many benefits to her ministry:

  • “The master’s program increased my awareness of what’s happening in the field of education. So much has changed since I studied for my bachelor’s degree. This program has helped me understand current best practices and encouraged me to strive to put them into action in my classroom.
  • “It’s also been beneficial in helping me more naturally communicate with parents and church members in regard to educating young children.
  • “And I love that I get to communicate to my students that I am a learner just like them! I am working on improving what I do each day.”

In some ways, Mrs. Zahrt will always be the same teacher—one who teaches not only literacy, but love; not only computers, but kindness. In other ways, however, she’s a teacher who’s always changing, always growing.

“While it may be difficult at times to do something new and stretch yourself a bit more, knowing that you are making changes that positively impact the education of your students is so rewarding,” she says. “There is such satisfaction in working toward a worthy goal and meeting it, especially one that you believe will make a positive difference in your mission field! I’m excited to see how God will use my strengths to serve him and his church in the future.”

Meet Jessica:

Family: My husband, Kevin, and I have been together 20 years! We’ve been married 17 years and have three kids: Isaac (15), Sabrina (14), and Karsten (11).

Hobbies: Attending all the sporting and school events of our three children is about all I have time for! I also enjoy baking and spending time catching up with family/friends over a cup of coffee or a good meal.

Favorite books/music: I love Christian music and reading motivational books about Christian living, relationships, parenting, and education.

Written by Laurie Gauger