2017-10-05 / Inside Education

Their teaching can’t be trumped

Married couple oversees both sixth grade classes at MES
Sports/Education Editor

From left, Keith Trump is shown with his wife, Jennifer Trump, inside Jennifer’s classroom at Mariposa Elementary School. 
Photo by Matt Johnson From left, Keith Trump is shown with his wife, Jennifer Trump, inside Jennifer’s classroom at Mariposa Elementary School. Photo by Matt Johnson The Trumps have moved to Mariposa.

No, not those Trumps. Rather, Keith and Jennifer Trump, who are teachers at Mariposa Elementary School.

Keith, 25, has been teaching four years. Jennifer Trump, 26, has been teaching three years. Her maiden name, Ritter, is a familiar one to Mariposa County. She is the daughter of Dr. Greg Ritter, a local veterinarian, and Melissa Ritter.

Jennifer grew up in Mariposa, attending Woodland Elementary, Mariposa Middle School and Mariposa County High School.

Then she went to college, where she met Keith.

The Trumps met while performing in the musical “Bye Bye Birdie” in college. Jennifer danced and Keith sang, and they had a scene together. They got to know each other more, and Keith eventually proposed in the dance studio where they had their first interaction.

They moved to Mariposa in July after teaching in inner city New York City for a few years. Keith taught in Harlem and Washington Heights, while Jennifer taught on the upper west side.

They both taught kindergarten while there. But after putting up with the fast paced lifestyle of New York City, it was time for a change.

“It’s been a really incredible journey,” Jennifer said. “It was the right time of our life to do it.”

They applied for several jobs in the region and eventually got an interview at MES. The catch: they would be teaching together.

“We were honestly just hoping for any two jobs that would bring us back,” Jennifer said. “We’re so excited the jobs opened up here.”

“It was very fortuitous,” Keith added.

Keith called the last few months “big changes, but good changes,” calling the couple’s time in New York City a “condensed training experience,” in which they learned a lot in a short amount of time.

“It was definitely a steep learning curve teaching in New York City,” added Jennifer.

Teaching side by side

Oddly enough, they both teach sixth grade at MES. Keith teaches in room 21, while Jennifer is right next door in room 20.

“It’s awesome,” Jennifer said. “We have pretty much the same schedule. We start with P.E. We both go outside. Sometimes we do it together, sometimes we don’t. We teach math to our own homeroom classes. We teach language arts to our homeroom classes.”

In the afternoon, two days a week, Jennifer teaches social studies to her class and the other two days she teaches social studies to Keith’s students, while Keith teaches science those days. In other words, Jennifer teaches social studies for the grade, while Keith teaches science.

“It allows us to form relationships with each other’s students, so we know all sixth graders and teach all the sixth graders,” Keith said. “It’s special to switch on those afternoons, because sometimes you need a break and it’s also fun to get to know those kids, too.”

Another advantage of teaching side by side as a married couple is it makes planning “faster and more efficient,” Keith said. Normally, sixth grade teachers at the school would have to hold planning sessions together to coordinate lessons, but in this instance, the two teachers literally live together.

“I would say we understand each other’s communication styles,” Keith joked.

That said, Keith believes they are “different styles” of teachers. They both agreed Keith is more “urgent” in his tone and “high energy.”

“It’s hard to articulate (the differences),” Jennifer said. “Keith is more time oriented and uses a timer more than I do. I’m a little more free flowing.”

“We have very similar training, so we both hold all students to very high expectations, academically and behaviorally,” Keith said.

Jennifer said they “expect a lot from them.”

“We expect them to be listening to each other and being respectful of each other,” Jennifer said.

Both said they went into teaching because of the “relationships” they form with the children.

“Sixth grade has been wonderful,” Jennifer said. “They’re so fun. Their humor is great. They’re able to laugh and joke and also work very hard.”

Keith said one of the most basic parts of their teaching philosophies is that “an effective classroom places a lot of ownership and independence on the students.”

“In sixth grade, they’re able to put in a lot more ownership, initiative and agency in their education,” Keith said. “It’s fun to give them classroom jobs and roles, or have them work in teams and help them develop communication skills, because those are real life skills.”

Perhaps the biggest benefit of working so closely with one another is the ultra focused attention they can give students.

“If we notice a student is struggling, we can talk to each other and work as a team to address that issue, because we teach all of them,” Keith said.

A sense of respect from students

The students definitely address the fact they’re married, but it hasn’t hindered anything in the classroom.

“They’re entertained by it,” Keith said.

“I think they respect we’re married,” Jennifer added. “It keeps them very accountable, because they know we talk about everything.”

As for their last name, it hasn’t been as much of a source of jokes as you might think.

“We nipped the Trump thing in the bud right at the beginning,” Jennifer said.

“We’ve heard it all,” Keith said. “There is no relation.”

Feeling good about where they’re at

So far, it’s been a positive experience being in Mariposa for the Trumps.

“It’s way easier to devote more time to teaching and planning when you don’t have to devote so much time to having to figure out what subway you’re going to take home, or crowding your way through people to get home,” Jennifer said.

Keith called Mariposa a “very supportive and positive” place.

“We’ve been nothing but welcomed,” Jennifer confirmed.

In fact, there are still teachers working in the district who were teaching Jennifer as she came up through the school system.

Both of the Trumps say they want to continue teaching for many years.

Keith called it “so much fun.”

“For me, education is a purpose in life,” Keith said. “I can’t think of a better way to invest into my community than using my educational opportunities and my passion to work with kids.”

Keith praised the “culture” in the district, calling it “special.”

“The people here have made it that way,” Jennifer said.

The Trumps hope they can leave their own legacy in Mariposa as the years go by.

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