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November 17, 2018
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Jessica Holman: Thirty-five years of Rancho Spirit

By: Lanny Lowery
November 2, 2018

What happens to high school spirit years after a person graduates? If you are Jessica Holman, Rancho Cotate English Teacher and the adviser to the Associated Student Body (ASB) Student Government class, that spirit grows exponentially as the years slip by. That spirit, nurtured early on, as she was a four-year member of the Marching Band, blossomed when as a new and young teacher she took on the daunting task of advising the student officers. And, during the past ten years, her spirit has soared as she and her young charges have brought student government to a new height. Jessica’s enthusiasm and love for Rancho Cotate and its traditions are highly contagious. They spread to her students and her teaching colleagues. She is never satisfied but always seeking to improve on so many activities: rallies and assemblies, fundraisers and blood drives, elections and sporting events. School spirit surfaces everywhere. Proof that this spirit never ceases, a typical weekend event this happening last weekend demonstrates Jessica’s work with ASB. ASB and she teamed up with Bella Notte Linens (Novato) to host a Linen Fundraiser. Most of the funds raised will benefit Unity Week; some will go to Rancho’s Special Education Department, and a portion will be contributed to Local Fire Relief Organization. Bella Notte donated several thousand of dollars’ worth of high-end linens to the fire-effected community last year, and Rancho facilitated the exchange between the company and those in need. I first met Jessica in 1980 when she was a student in my seventh grade English class; she was quiet and intelligent, even at the age of eleven. She had definite views about most everything, particularly about not wanting to read stories about dogs. She scored the highest in her grade during the first year of the district writing sample tests. While she continued to employ her fine mind, her quiet nature evolved into an articulate and outgoing personality. This development emerges through our interview. Lanny: How did your relationship with Rancho Cotate develop and impact you as the adviser to the Associated Student Body (ASB) Student Government class? Jessica: I graduated from the Ranch in 1986 after I had experienced four years as a member of the Marching Band as a student. Just before my tenth class reunion, I interviewed for the English Teacher/ASB Adviser position. I became the adviser during my second year and continued this work for a year and a half when I was overwhelmed as a single mother, teacher, and adviser. I took a ten-year break, was a Class Adviser, and remained active with the student body. In 2008, I resumed being the ASB Adviser. My experience in band naturally fostered school spirit, competition, and pride of place. Being ASB Adviser was the perfect fit for me; it was like coming home as I could be outgoing with my cheers, spirit day outfits, and school pride. Lanny: What prompted you to become an English teacher and what did you do to achieve that goal? Jessica: Originally, I earned my Multiple Subject Credential and wanted to teach primary grades, so I did my student teaching in a sixth grade GATE class at Hahn under Kay Hawkins and also an ungraded primary class at Waldo Rohnert under Judy Grubb and Diane Rasmussen. The primary class, a combination of two classes, included a special education class. I learned to scaffold lessons so that they fit all students that later helped me in teaching modified English classes at the Ranch. I was working as a grocery checker in the evenings and substituting for classes from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Then I taught two English classes at Rancho summer school. Next I subbed for Dale Steffy and Mary Lee Higgins. I loved teaching her English 9 and 10 classes. I discovered that teaching literary analysis was rewarding, especially when I saw the light bulbs go on when students made connections between Lord of the Flies and World War II. I soon earned my secondary credential as I completed a writing course. When Higgins became an administrator, the Ranch hired me to teach English, especially English 10 curriculum that I have enjoyed presenting for twenty-four years. Lanny: How has your job changed during the past two decades? Jessica: For over twenty years, I taught English 10 where not much of the curriculum changed, but I was able to diversify by teaching English 9, 10 modified, twelve, and twelve modified. This past spring I was given the green light to start a beginning leadership course for this current semester. I wrote up the course during the summer and submitted it to the UC Regents, and it quickly approved as an elective meeting UC requirements. It’s different than ASB because it’s less event focused, but the kids are just as enthusiastic, hard-working, and eager to learn. We focus on fundraising and philanthropy, as well as personal leadership philosophy. Two weeks before school started this year, our new principal, Dr. Louis Ganzler, offered me the opportunity to teach four elective sections of CTE Hospitality, Tourism, and Recreation. I was eager to accept the position as I had wanted a change, and it was a relief to not teach core classes and two leadership sections. I wrote the course, and the UC Regents accepted it as an elective. I enjoy teaching event planning and travel as I have extensive experience in both. Now I will pursue getting my fourth credential, a CTE credential. Lanny: What is ASB? What’s its role at Rancho Cotate? How has ASB changed since you were in high school? Jessica: ASB is the Associated Student Body Student Government course at Rancho Cotate. We are the “memory makers” for the student body. Besides athletics and academics, we are in charge of many of the events chronicled in Icon, Rancho’s yearbook. Legally, clubs couldn’t exist without us chartering them annually and approving fundraisers; we’re in charge of over $250,000 in student accounts each year; we produce four rallies, four days of Unity Week, four blood drives, a parade, five spirit weeks, athlete of the week, Homecoming and Prom royalty, class council and ASB elections, student of the month, Rancho’s Got Talent, and Battle of the Fans. We manage Cougar Crew Spirit and are in charge of the Cougar Tunnel. We’ve raised thousands of dollars for Sutter Women’s Health Organization and for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We also have a canned food drive, which raises over ten thousand pounds of food annually for Neighbors Organized Against Hunger (NOAH). We were the class in charge of Rancho Cotate’s 50 Year Celebration in 2016, and in September of this year we hosted the classes of 1967-1970 in a mini-rally and tour of the campus. Last year we hosted four donor drives following the fires: clothing/bedding, school supply, pet essentials, and personal hygiene drives. We also donated close to $500 raised by the student body to the Redwood Credit Union Fire Relief Fund. I don’t remember there being an ASB class at the Ranch in the 1980s and many of the events we have now did not exist when I was a student. Lanny: What kind of time commitments does this ASB adviser job require? How has this impacted your family, and how has your family supported you over the years? Jessica: The extra time commitment is extensive. I have been able to determine my own extra-curricular hours as adviser, and I add over one thousand hours to my school year just for the ASB course. I do receive a stipend for the work I do, but, until last year, my stipend equaled one hundred dollars more that the assistant baseball coach. Then my union negotiated a stipend increase, which puts me on a level with the varsity football coach. My daughter, Katelin, and my husband, Robbie, have fully supported me during my career. I consider Robbie to be my co-advisor as he pitches amazing ideas such as “Dancing with the Seniors,” using ropes at rallies for crowd control, and buying an air compressor for balloon arches. He has built a castle (we use parts of it for every rally) and other props for floats, dances, and rallies. If I’m frustrated, I go to him for help. He accepts the fact that sometimes ASB comes first in my life and that I will work long hours to help make the memories for Rancho’s students. Katelin grew up knowing that I was spirited. When she was in eighth grade at Creekside Middle School, I took over ASB so that I could be in charge of the events while she was here. She participated in student government all four years. I was able to teach here life skills as an adviser, rather than as a mom, which I think has had a more lasting impact. I’m truly grateful for the support I’ve been given by Robbie and Katelin. I could not have lasted this long as an adviser without them! Lanny: What are your long-term goals for this program? Jessica: I want to continue to give student leaders opportunities to empower them and become self-sufficient young adults. Lanny: What other important benefit have you gained by your work with ASB? Jessica: Making friends with so many of my colleagues. Rancho is not only a wonderful place for students, but the camaraderie among its staff is strong. Jessica Holman, the quiet and thoughtful young student, transformed by her student experiences with the Rancho band, bloomed into an enthusiastic, outgoing and active English teacher who creates memorable experiences for her students. That was not enough for her; as ASB Adviser she has affected not only all of the students but also all of the teachers and staff at Rancho Cotate. May she continue to share her energy and creativity at Rancho for many!