WILMINGTON — Maribeth Jaeske began her teaching career in rural North Carolina, at a coed public school, but the pull of home brought her back to the Delaware Valley. She ended up at Ursuline Academy, where in just over a year she has become a popular instructor.
Jaeske, who teaches history and economics in Ursuline’s Upper School, was nominated by one of her students for The Dialog’s “Teacher Feature,” which allows juniors and seniors to recommend them for a profile. Senior Ashlyn Lorentz suggested Jaeske for the feature.
“I was so overwhelmed and so touched,” Jaeske said about finding out she’d been nominated. “It does mean a lot. I do try to build that rapport with them almost immediately, which made it almost impossible to leave North Carolina. The same thing here. It makes the hard days worth it, and it makes the better days even better because you’re seeing progress.”
Jaeske, who was raised and still lives in Collegeville, Pa., taught for a year at Salesianum School after coming back from North Carolina before moving to Ursuline. She said she loves the students and “their ability to just be honest. They’re strong in their beliefs, and they just have a way about them. I like the idea of building and helping them be strong, independent women. And they’re genuinely curious about what’s happening in the world, and that makes my content that much more interesting.”
In her first job, Jaeske, 29, said she was more of a mother figure to her students, who needed a lot of emotional support. She didn’t mind that, but at Salesianum and now Ursuline, the need for that is not nearly as great. That has allowed her to focus more on content.
She can relate to the students at Ursuline a bit more because they share a gender. She said she has experienced some things her students will go through, and she hopes to be able to help them navigate all that’s happening in their lives.
Although most of her students have been in school this year, she has been checking with them more to make sure they are doing well. If her students are not doing well, she takes a step back and tries to figure out what is going on.
“Do we need to do a meditation session? Do we need to give ourselves a break for a minute? With everything going on, the kids are overwhelmed. I try to see them as humans first,” she said.
She reminds the girls that school is their job, so they need to make sure they take care of themselves so the job gets done. The pandemic has forced her to alter her preferred approach to learning, which is project-based and hands-on. She likes to limit the amount of necessary screen time.
Lorentz had Jaeske last year and requested to take her class again this year. Jaeske said she Lorentz was a great candidate for her advanced placement classes.
“I trusted her work effort,” Jaeske said. “She is a hard worker. She is really charismatic in the sense that her peers love her. She supports her friends and will be there for them, whether that’s to be called at 2 a.m. or just a shoulder to cry on.”
Jaeske attended Catholic school in her native Philadelphia until her family moved to Collegeville after her fourth-grade year. She graduated from Perkiomen Valley High School and Millersville University. She’s the first person in her immediate family to earn a bachelor’s degree, and the first person on her father’s side not to go to Penn State.
She has always been interested in education and knew early on that it was what she wanted to do.
“I’ve always been interested in history and learning, and it just seemed like the natural progression,” she said.
When she’s not teaching, she likes to spend time with her family and friends, and she works part-time at a fitness studio. She enjoys reading about history, and she has become involved in Ursuline’s Diversity and Equity Initiative.
“I’m working to introduce more anti-racist ideas into my classroom,” she said.
She spends as much time as possible at her family’s home in Ocean City, N.J. In fact, after schools and businesses closed last spring because of coronavirus-related restrictions, she and her family decamped for the Shore. There, in addition to teaching remotely, she was able to hang out with her younger sister’s dog, Flynn.
“I’m a lovely auntie to him,” she said.