Jessica Houben is a Program Coordinator with IEA. She will be working most closely with the Yunasa camps this program season.
1. What are you most passionate about in working with the gifted community?
I am most passionate about working with gifted youth in a non-traditional educational setting because I get to see kids grow on a personal level as well as intellectually. Getting to know each individual student throughout the application process and then seeing them in person going through an IEA program is really rewarding because these kids are multi-faceted and complex in the most amazing ways. In a school setting, you don’t always get to see these kids for who they are, but at IEA, we get to see them blossom as individuals. It is such a pleasure to hear happy parents when they realize that they’ve finally found programs that will challenge their child.
2. What is the most interesting thing you have learned about gifted kids since you started at IEA?
I guess I always thought about gifted kids being really intelligent, which they are. However, one interesting thing I have learned is that they can also be very emotionally intense. They do not take injustices lightly, they are passionate about the world’s problems, and they can be overly worried about friends or loved ones. These kids care a lot about their environment, and if given the proper tools, can really make a difference as leaders of the next generation.
3. What are you looking forward to about coordinating Yunasa this year?
I have coordinated Academy classes as well as our Apprenticeship Program for the past two program seasons and had the opportunity to attend and be in a supportive role at Yunasa in 2011. I love that Academy and Apprenticeship are academic programs that provide challenging intellectual content to gifted learners that they may not otherwise have access to, but I’m really excited to facilitate personal and intellectual growth within a camp environment. I really enjoy camping, the outdoors, and carrying on traditions. I’m hopeful that I can continue the Yunasa tradition and that even more students are able to benefit from the camp.
4. What’s your favorite activity from an IEA program?
It is really hard to choose because there are so many things that I love that we do in each program! I like that we do Olympics at Apprenticeship, because the Apprentices support and encourage their team members and compete in a positive way. I also enjoy Psychosynthesis at Yunasa because it allows campers the opportunity to focus and relax. However, I think my favorite activity from an IEA program is launching rockets with our Academy students. During spring, I assisted in the Rocket to Calculus class and had the chance to build and launch a rocket with students, which was so much fun because I got to see the students’ faces light up as the math and science they learned came to life!
5. What is your educational philosophy?
I believe that education should be meaningful, holistic, and child-centered. In today’s society, a lot of emphasis is placed on test scores and results rather than focusing on the process of learning. Children need to learn by exploring their world, solving problems that are relevant to them, and having positive experiences in content areas that are interesting. Of course, everyone needs to learn the basics, but that is just one part of education. The other part is finding out what each child enjoys and wants to learn more about and then providing the opportunities to learn about that topic in a way that keeps them interested in becoming lifelong learners.
6. What’s your favorite snack food?
My favorite snack food is chocolate. Whenever I’m feeling tired, or stressed, or I just need something a little sweet, chocolate is the answer. It can be in any form; I don’t discriminate.
7. What’s one activity you enjoy doing in your free time?
I really enjoy doing yoga in my free time. I have practiced yoga on and off for about 9 years, taking different classes in college, at yoga studios, at the gym, or with a video in my living room. It’s an activity that uses my mind and body, and every time I do it I feel like I’m doing a good thing for myself.