Red Deer Public School Division

Gateway Valedictorian to become a teacher to make a difference

Following in her mother’s footsteps after seeing the difference she has made in the lives of students is Jessica Snyder’s goal in becoming a teacher after she graduates from Gateway Christian School this month.

Jessica has been named the Gateway’s valedictorian this year. Graduation ceremonies will take place June 29 at Canyon Ski Resort.

“I was so excited to learn I was named valedictorian. I was so happy!” said Jessica. “It’s such a huge honour that I get to address my class and congratulate them.”

She added being named valedictorian has been a goal of hers since middle school.

“It took a lot of hard work and I had to be very dedicated to my work. It took a lot of strength especially through COVID,” said Jessica. “My family and friends really helped me to keep going and keep learning. It’s all a learning experience, so that was a motivator to me - the more I devoted myself to my work, the more I learned.”

Completing high school in a global pandemic has presented a number of challenges, but Jessica didn’t let that stop her from achieving her goals.

“It has been hard. The biggest thing that has helped me this year has been the support of my family and the Lord too - just praying for the strength to get through it and find the best path for me and my family to navigate this,” she said. “Having that steady anchor of my family and the Lord has definitely helped me keep committed and keep going.”

Looking back at her time in school, Jessica said there were many highlights, but it’s the small moments that stand out to her the most.

“Most people like to remember the big things that happen like school trips, which were so much fun. But I think the real moments where I bonded with my class were the small moments like sitting and playing Uno at lunch, and if it’s a hot day outside, we go and play at the park. It’s those small moments which meant the most to me.”

As for her future, Jessica will attend Red Deer College next year as she has been accepted to the Bachelor of Education program.

“I am going to go with the secondary route, which means I will be teaching in the higher grades,” she said. “My mom is a teacher, so I have taken after that just seeing the impact she has had on students’ lives. Growing up in a family with a teacher has definitely helped shape my life, so I think it would be great for me to follow in her path and make it my own.”

Jessica added she is excited to address her fellow classmates during graduation.

“Over the past couple of years we’ve had to show a steadfast character - being loyal and committed, devoted and dedicated whether that’s with our relationships or working towards finding a job,” she said. “I want to encourage my class to keep going with that because it helps us get to great goals like achieving our graduation.”

Chris Kooman, Vice Principal at Gateway Christian School, said he is extremely proud of Jessica.

“Jessica is a hard working student with attention to detail and a love of learning. She takes her studies seriously, working diligently to excel in every area,” he said. “She cares about her classmates, is fun and energetic, and works on relationships as much as her studies. Jessica's willingness to help others, improve herself, and constantly improve are qualities that will take her far in life!”