Jess Buller, Colorado Policy Fellow
State and City of Residence:
Why do you work in education?
I seek to bring systemic change to education. Our students deserve better than the current model is capable of providing. High stakes accountability--as far as we currently define it--has created an unhealthy level of distrust between the public and the educators who are in the trenches working hard to create positive change with our kids. As an administrator, I seek to empower teachers to regain lost confidence in knowing that they truly possess the power to make a positive change in the lives of those they serve.
Tell us about something that you have done in education that you feel has made or will make a big difference for your community?
My colleague and fellow policy fellow, Elaine Menardi, and I co-wrote HB 17-1201: adding a STEM endorsement to the high school diploma. HB 17-1201 outlines a rigorous pathway consisting of test scores and STEM-related coursework, as well as a capstone project created through a partnership between the school and industry. This is of particular value to the students whom I serve in that it offers great post-secondary potential to rural students who might not otherwise be afforded that opportunity. Students who graduate from rural or small rural districts are often overlooked for a variety of reasons; the diploma endorsement will assure colleges and universities as well as potential employers that these students will drive the future.
What’s your favorite part about being an Educator Voice Fellow?
The connections have proven invaluable. America Achieves is a driven group of educators with a common goal: to provide the best for the students we serve. It is humbling to be a part of such a group of like-minded individuals.
If you could change just one thing about our current education system, what would it be?
Systemic change begins with a mindset. Whether it's small or large scale, the need to change must be recognized before there will be traction in the effort. The system of education we operate under currently is not designed for the students it seeks to serve. To prepare students for their future, we must elevate our model from one of Learn-Test-Forget to one of Ask-Think-Solve. In other words, we must design a system that allows students to show what they are capable of doing instead of just what they know.
If a song played every time you walked into a room, what would that song be?
"It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine)" - REM
What’s the best thing a student ever said to you?
Anything else you’d like to share?
The choice to become an educator should not be taken lightly. We have the power to change the world - literally. Working in a school is difficult and it comes without proper recognition. Every child who steps through our front doors is hungering for a purpose and it is up to us to nourish it. The broken homes...the past experiences...the troubling circumstances...all of these add challenge to our attempt to educate. But NONE of these should deter us from doing what we are meant to do. Keep fighting the good fight.
Jess Buller is a K-8 principal for West Grand School District 1-JT in Kremmling, Colorado. Prior to acquiring this position, Jess served as a German and English teacher for 11 years (in Nebraska and Colorado) as well as a K-8 principal for the past four years in Yuma, Colorado. Jess earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in German and English from Doane College in Crete, Nebraska, and later went on to earn a Master in Education degree from the University of Nebraska-Kearney, specializing in Principalship. In late Spring 2015, Jess and colleague, Elaine Menardi, founded Never Summer, a company that strives to aid adults in understanding and teaching today's youth. Jess is an avid proponent of pushing the academic envelope in public education. It is his pursuit to pivot the educational conversation into one where student success is truly at heart. It is his position that true 21st century preparation goes far beyond college and career readiness.