Jen Whitman-Middle School Teacher-Coniston: 2003-2015

How old were you when you started Camp?

I was 12 when I first came to camp!

How were you introduced to Coniston?

My friend at school introduced me!

Did you attend college, and if so, what did you study?

For college, I went to Boston University and majored in mass communication and minored in psychology and education. For graduate school, I went to Wheelock College and got my masters in integrated elementary and special education.

What is your current job? 

I currently work at Kennedy Middle School in Natick, MA. I teach 6th grade English and social studies. I also coach track!

How has your career journey evolved?

I always knew that I wanted to work with kids and that there was a chance that I would become a teacher, but when I started college, I was planning on becoming a camp director. After college, I realized that teacher would be a better fit for me so that I could work directly with kids every day and I went back to school for my masters. I taught 5th grade English and social studies before moving up to 6th grade this year! But who knows, there’s still time for me to become a camp director one day!

Did Coniston influence your ability to create this journey?

Of course – in so many ways! At Coniston I got to work with so many amazing and talented people who inspired me to be better for my campers everyday. I learned to work as part of a team and that leading by example is the best way to lead. Most importantly, my campers helped me realize that I needed to do a job that involved working directly with kids because I was happiest when I was with them. I would not be as strong of a teacher today without camp.
Are there any skills or traits you gained at Coniston that you use in your professional life?
Definitely! Leading Adventure Camp and taking the WCITs out west taught me about responsibility, organization, planning, and so much more. I had to make sure that everyone had food to eat, had everything they needed, was safe, and was having a good time. It was hard work! I use the skills I built on those trips every day at school!

My experience working at camp has had a huge impact on my teaching style. I try to infuse my classroom environment and my lessons with the joy and support of camp. I put relationships first, both mine with my students and my students’ with each other, because once there is that close bond of trust, the serious learning and growing can start.
Are there any specific memories from your time at Coniston that are still impactful to you?
I will never forget the first Adventure Camp trip I lead! The only camping I had done before that trip was my cabin overnights. It poured for 2-3 days straight right when we left. We were soaked, our tents were soaked, and it was impossible to start a fire to cook anything to warm us up. I had to figure out how to solve all of our problems and make the most of our situation. By the end of our trip, because of everything we went through, our group became so close and it was hard for us to say goodbye to each other. Whenever anything challenging comes my way, I think of that trip, and I know I can handle anything!