The student online newsmagazine of SHS

The Journal Rewired

The student online newsmagazine of SHS

The Journal Rewired

The student online newsmagazine of SHS

The Journal Rewired

Walpole’s why

English teacher turns a negative past into a positive future
English+teacher+Jessi+Walpole+wants+to+have+the+same+influence+on+her+students+that+some+of+her+teachers+had+on+her.+%E2%80%9CI+have+a+purpose%2C%E2%80%9D+she+said.+photo+by+Salem+Ortega-Morales
English teacher Jessi Walpole wants to have the same influence on her students that some of her teachers had on her. “I have a purpose,” she said. photo by Salem Ortega-Morales

English teacher and dance coach Jessi Walpole walked through the house looking for her stepsister years ago, wanting to know if she needed the curling iron. As she stepped out of her door, she was greeted by six rifles pointing towards her face, and next thing she knew, she was being handcuffed and thrown into the back of a van.

Walpole was born in December of 1986 and her parents divorced when she was just 2 years old. Her mother’s second marriage came quickly after but it was a very toxic and violent relationship.

“My mom and stepdad were constantly fighting. My mom was hospitalized many times because of the violence … all of us kids were witness to that,” Walpole said.

Their unsafe and damaging relationship, along with her mother’s drug issues not only made an impact on her parents but also took a major toll on Walpole in general, including her life at school. Meanwhile, as Walpole’s mother and stepdad began to abuse drugs, he also began to sell them, specifically OxyContin.

Her mother and her mother’s doctor also began to commit Medicaid fraud for profit. The FBI had been observing her mother and she was eventually arrested for selling OxyContin.

In November of 2001, one of Walpole’s classmates passed away from an OxyContin overdose, and everyone immediately began pointing fingers towards her mother, which changed her life in high school for the worse. She was pushed down the stairs at school on multiple occasions, and at one point someone even cut the brakes in her car, causing her to wreck into a tree.

“High school was hard because of that boy’s death and then my mom’s arrest … I was bullied,” Walpole said.

Walpole went through an extreme amount of traumatic events throughout her childhood and had to learn how to not let her surroundings and past define her.

From being severely bullied in high school, to having to carry the burden of her mom’s health due to her drug addiction, she struggled to find peace and comfort in her life. The one thing that brought a feeling of joy and security to Walpole since it began was dance, not only dance itself, but her dance teacher Melissa Brassard, who grew to be like a sister to her.

Throughout growing up, Brassard seemed to be the one person Walpole could trust and who cared about her.

“I don’t know that I wouldn’t have walked off a cliff or given up or dropped out of school if she hadn’t made sure that I knew somebody loved me,” Walpole said.

Brassard coached the dance team and theater arts classes at Jennings County High School and taught Walpole in her first four years of teaching. As they became closer, Walpole began to feel more comfortable around her and they quickly developed a strong bond.

“She gave me a place just to sit and stare at the wall. She gave me a place to feel like I am not what my parents did,” Walpole said.

In addition to attending Walpole’s graduation, her dance coach Melissa Brassard also attended her wedding. photo contributed by Jessi Walpole

Brassard changed Walpole’s life by being what she needed. It wasn’t just helping her with her emotional struggles but also helping her pursue her dreams and helping lead her to where she is

today.

“As a teacher, you never really know what kind of impact you may have on a student in their future. I hoped that I made her feel loved, valued, heard and that she felt her own worth,” Brassard said in an email to The Journal.

Walpole’s main motivation in what she does today is to help students the same way Brassard helped her.

Former SHS student, Kaylie Fallowfield was on Walpole’s dance team and was impacted by her in a similar way Brassard impacted Walpole.

“First she was an English teacher to me and then I soon joined the dance team and around that time I had issues with my own family so Walpole really stepped up and was kind of like a parent figure to me,” Fallowfield said.

Throughout everything Walpole had to endure, there were people she never imagined would have such an impact in her l

ife and getting her through it, and now she has the chance to do the same for her students.

“I have a purpose, I’m lucky that I know why I show up everyday,” Walpole said.

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About the Contributor
Harjas Kaur, Features Reporter
Hi, my name is Harjas Kaur Chauhan, and I’m excited to enter the 2023-2024 school year as a sophomore here at SHS. This is my first year on The Journal, and I am a Features writer. I am so excited to meet new people and work with everyone this year. As I get to know you, I want you to know a little bit about me! So I grew up in a small town in New Jersey and was born into a Sikh family. I started speaking Punjabi when I was four and was surrounded by culture and family. I loved to read and go to the Gurudwara as a child. My background is still an important part of me, and I carry pride in being a Sikh. When I turned eight, I moved to Indiana. It’s really different because here I can’t just travel to New York on the weekend, which is why I don’t really like it, but I can’t say it’s all that bad because I met my best friend Simran here. I love watching horror movies with her. Thanks for checking out my bio, now go check out the rest!

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