Teacher Stories: Jamie Wasco, English Teacher, Perth Amboy Vocational and Technical High School
Middlesex County Vocational, where I work is one of the oldest all-in-one vocational districts in the country. All of our kids come to us for their academics as well as for their vocational subjects, which is really rare. A lot of our kids do go to college, but a lot of them instead choose to go to a continuing ed tech program for additional certifications. So the kids who come out of the auto program, they’re typically more certified than people who start working off at dealerships and places like that.
I was a really good student in high school, but I didn’t have any money for college and my mom and dad told me, ‘We’re really sorry, we want to support you, but you’re on your own for paying for this.’ So I ended up at OCC with the STARS program where you go for free if you have a 3.5 GPA or higher. I was watching so many people who weren’t as good students as me in high school going off to college and I was thinking, ‘OCC is going to be so boring. How am I going to make friends?’ I was having what I call my quarter life crisis where I was like, ‘Community College is gonna be the worst thing ever!’ But my best friend’s dad suggested I join OCC’s sailing team. They actually have a pretty good team for a community college. On the first day of practice, I got paired up in a boat with the guy who’s now my husband.I really kind of fell into coaching sailing when I started my career teaching. I ended up getting hired by my college coach at OCC. He was running the program and then I took it over from him. I coach on the Barnegat Bay. There’s 14 yacht clubs and every Saturday all the sailors from those 14 yacht clubs race. We have a really long season, about 14 weeks long. And it runs the whole summer on Saturdays, and then all of your results are cumulative. So, you race from the end of June until Labor Day. Last year, it came down to the last race. We were neck and neck. We were actually last for most of the race, but we got so close at the end, and I was just smiling the whole time. We were like dead last and the wind kind of filled in from a weird spot and the next thing you know we were fighting for first place.The high school teams are co-ed, but I do love my girls. Sailing is like a very male-dominated sport. There’s not a ton of women, especially women my age. So I’m trying really hard especially with a baby on the way. I want to stay really visible and I want to keep mentoring girls. I’ve hired probably 50 different instructors underneath me while I’ve been running the program, and I like to hire the girls. I like to teach them how to negotiate their salaries. I also like being their references when they go on from college and get new jobs and things like that. So, I don’t want to disappear. Now that I am about to have a baby, I am now passing the torch to a young lady: she’s 21, and she just got her first teaching job. She reminds me a lot of me 10 years ago.