by Audrey Fusillo, staff writer

SEPTEMBER 2022 — Amy Jennings made her way onto the Rootstown campus this school year as the newest Career Technical Education teacher at Bio-Med Science Academy. She’s the health pathway instructor working to prepare the freshmen for health science and technology in addition to preparing the sophomores for bioscience research development. Despite landing where she is now, she took a winding route to get to Bio-Med, being called to both nursing and teaching.

Jennings started her college career when she was 19 by becoming a veterinary technician (vet tech) on and off for about two years as she also was taking courses in education. This was her first foray to understand where she wanted to go with her career and eventually, she found that teaching was what really called to her, despite her aspirations to work as a veterinarian. 

Pictured above is Amy Jennings with her family at her daughter Zoe’s college graduation. Zoe earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Ohio University in just three years. From left to right: Jennings, Zoe (Daughter), Gabriel (Son), and Ethan (Son). Photo provided by Amy Jennings.

She taught horseback riding lessons for years as a teen and found that she really enjoyed the prospect of being able to help others learn. After this discovery, she attended The University of Akron — the same school she was training to be a vet tech at — to earn a Bachelor’s of Science and a Bachelor’s of Education and graduated in 1994. After graduation, she began teaching educating middle-schoolers from grades five-eight.

But things quickly changed when motherhood fell upon her.

Ultimately, Jennings found that being a mom and supporting her family was most important to her as her children grew up, causing her to give up vet school. Jennings still persevered as a teacher during this time. After staying home for 10 years, and teaching for eight, two of her five children started experiencing undiagnosed medical symptoms.

“I didn’t like not knowing exactly what was going on,” Jennings added.

She had always been the go-to medic in the family, due to a health scare with her grandmother. Because of this experience, Jennings was comfortable researching the conditions and sharing the facts with family. After her children began displaying unexplained symptoms, the need for Jennings to continue researching medical mysteries increased.

But eventually, she hit a research wall and couldn’t do anymore without a college degree in a medical field.

Jennings decided to go the full nine yards, reflecting on the decision as a positive and has continued to work as a nurse for 13 years to the present.

Taking UA courses, she first got her registered Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license. She claims this was based around wanting to understand the difference between what she classified as, “mom-fears,” and true emergencies.

“I like being in the know. I like helping people,” she admitted.

She then transferred to nursing school at UA, craving more in-depth medical knowledge. After graduating from UA with her medical degree, she earned a position at the Akron Children’s hospital. Jennings specialized in hospice, pain management, and pediatrics. With pediatrics at Akron Children’s, she moved into the burn unit and intensive care unit until COVID-19 hit.

Jennings’ marmoset, Oliver, curls around her fingers. She’s always loved monkeys and she was finally able to make her dream of having one as a pet come true with this little primate. Photo provided by Amy Jennings.

With an increased demand for health safety post-pandemic, she used her nursing degree to work in school health (a branch of nursing that connects to school nurses or medical assistants) which allowed her to realize how she truly missed teaching like she did during her early motherhood.

“Nursing is all about educating your patients, so it matched the education background I was already into,” Jennings shared.

She found the Bio-Med position and combined her two passions. Even though each line of work holds complex standards, Jennings said that it was easier to come back into teaching having had a nursing career.

She elaborated, “One of the main jobs of a nurse is being an educator. The doctor will write the orders, and a nurse comes in and goes over things with you and your family, making sure you understand. We’re the ones that teach you how to do it.”

Everything that Jennings’ has  learned, she’s found meaning behind. Jennings encourages this same mindset in her personal teachings.

She explained, “I want to see value in it. I do feel that there is value in everything we learn here. Whether it’s for our brain, our heart, or our hands.”

Jennings finds her personal values within her family, hoping to influence their journey positively. With only one child, a freshman, at home, two in college, and one running an office for eye care, home life has slowed down.

Despite her love for family, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Jennings struggled to balance a family on top of trying to create opportunities for herself.

“I have certainly learned the differences between going to college with minimal responsibilities versus running your home and raising children while getting a degree,” she said.

With all of the seriousness needed in a professional environment, Jennings has also learned to be able to laugh at herself a lot and brush things off.

“I think first and foremost, it’s important to not take things personally. When someone is upset, when a parent is upset, it’s not about me…. Sometimes, we just need somebody to listen.”

Helping people had been one of her dreams, but Jennings also wanted to help animals, specifically horses. This passion also inspired her vet tech era. Growing up, Jennings found her core group of friends at Camp Y-Noah, the Akron YMCA’s overnight camp located in Green, Ohio.

Jennings (right) hangs out with friend and hero, Christy Engler (left). They’ve been close for 35 years. Engler teaches in Miami, Florida and has adopted seven children from the foster care system. Photo provided by Amy Jennings.

Starting at the age of 16, she spent eight years there, with her and her best friend acting as the equestrian directors of the camp.  

“Our backgrounds, where we grew up, [and] our parents were completely different,” she said of her fellow campers “If we were together in high school, we wouldn’t be friends, but we had a shared love for horses, and the job that we were doing was valued.”

After Jennings and friend, Christy Engler, left, the herd of horses the two cared for started aging to the point where they were overworked. This is when she officially started her horse rescue center on top of already working as a nurse. This was located on her property until an opportunity for larger land was introduced by a friend.

“We started buying [horses] and retiring them. We got 15+ horses and just retired them, hospiced them when they started to get ill, and gave them a good end of life,” she recalled.

Jennings also currently has three dogs, a cat, and, at one point in time, even had a monkey.

“Basically, with kids and animals, if they need a home, if they need a spot, they come to us. I’ll feed you and take care of you, try to get you set up for success,” Jennings explained.

Although taking a hectic path, Jennings showed no regret for how things ended up for her life.

“I would not change being a mom, nor would I change believing in love,” she confessed. “I would not change being loyal to the people that you call family — DNA related or not. I wouldn’t change the education I’ve had.”

Jennings gave a final bit of advice, saying, “If you have a passion, go for it. Set goals and don’t make any rash decisions. Find a team that is supportive and believes in you. And, especially, know your resources. You don’t have to know everything, you just need to know where to find the answers.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s