Jennifer Brinkman feels like she’s come full circle.
A lifelong Catholic, she’s attended and taught at Catholic schools. She’s currently a second grade teacher at St. Augustin School in Des Moines, a job opportunity she jumped at eight years ago.
That’s because the person who inspired her as a middle schooler to become a teacher is still making a difference in kids’ lives at St. Augustin today. Patricia Hogan was her teacher back then and continues to share her knowledge and experience with Brinkman as a mentor and role model.
“To be able to work with the person I admire most — it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” says Brinkman.
Hogan is currently the school’s vice principal and teaches seventh- and eighth-grade reading and language arts. In particular, it’s been Hogan’s enthusiasm — specifically toward reading, literature and books — and her high expectations of students that have made a significant impact on Brinkman. They’re aspects that she’s tried to incorporate into her teaching style.
She describes her teaching philosophy as “creating a learning environment that encourages and models love and incorporates faith.”
In the second grade, students receive their First Communion and First Reconciliation. Brinkman helps them prepare for these rites of passage. Being able to be a part of each child’s “sacramental journey” is her favorite part of the job, she says.
The biggest challenge of being a teacher hasn’t changed in the 17 years she’s been in the profession: determining the needs of every student and how best to help them.
Working with kids is something Brinkman has always enjoyed. When she was younger, she liked to babysit. As a senior in high school, she worked at the aftercare program at St. Augustin.
She went on to receive her bachelor’s in elementary and early childhood education from the University of Northern Iowa and also has a master of arts in education from Viterbo University.
The role she is in today, which incorporates her passion for both teaching and her faith, is one that she feels called to.
“I always feel like this is what was meant to be, that this was God’s plan for me,” Brinkman says.