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Teacher Feature Jennifer Cassel, Tokay High School

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Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 12:00 am

Q: What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?

A: About four years ago, I competed against my husband and three other people on “Fear Factor” at Universal Studios. During one part of the competition I had to eat some strange blended concoction of beetles, fish-guts, worms, crickets and sour milk. Instead of a “smoothie,” they referred to it as a “chunkie” — how disgusting!

One guy threw up on stage, but I was determined to show my kids I could win, so I powered it down. By the end of the event I had beaten everyone (including my husband), and I won four tickets to Universal Studios.

Q: What would you do if you won a million dollars?

A: I’ve taught Steinbeck’s “The Pearl,” and winning the lottery is something we discuss in class as a way to connect to that novel. My students are always surprised when I tell them that if I won a million dollars I would still be a teacher (maybe part-time, but I’d still teach!) because I like my job so much and it means a lot to me. I would definitely travel more, but I would still be a teacher.

Q: Was there a particular teacher who had a strong influence on your life?

A: I’ve been lucky to have a bunch of wonderful teachers in my life, and they have all served as inspirations for me. First is my mom, Bonnie Cassel, hands down the best teacher I’ve ever known. Next would be my Lodi English teachers, Mr. Tom Goudie, Mrs. Joann Gavin and Ms. Carol Buechler, who sparked my love of literature.

Then there are teachers who are mentors to me: Mrs. Julie Thompson, Mrs. Regina Peters and Mrs. Lynda Nahigian, who helped me become a better teacher.

There are also the fantastic teachers at Larson Elementary School who have done incredible work with all three of my children; I have a lot of respect for those patient, hard-working elementary teachers.

And lastly, there are amazing teachers who I’ve worked with at Bear Creek and Tokay high schools whom I admire every single day.

I sincerely believe that teaching is a noble profession, and all of these people are living testimonies to that belief.

Q: What song makes you happy when you hear it?

A: When my kids were young and wouldn’t stop crying, I’d play Bob Marley. I know that sounds funny, but Bob Marley makes me (and my kids) happy.

Q: What are four things you cannot live without?

A: My husband, Hector Ramos, and my three kids, Claire, Ava and Owen Canestrino.

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