About Victoria

Hi! My name is Victoria Jasztal, and I am in my eighth year of teaching fourth grade in central Florida. After my seventh interview and feeling discouraged, I was hired at my current school by the assistant principal who retired that summer.

People describe me as dedicated, insightful, brilliant (I am rolling my eyes as I type this), an overachiever, creative, and an excellent actress. When I get started on a project, I am a perfectionist. Even in setting up my classroom, I come up with a "vision" for the room and must follow through with every desire, even if my plans seem "over the top". My passions are writing children's literature, photography, traveling (road trips), and relaxing with good books.

In June 2000, I graduated from Central High School in Brooksville, Florida (about ten minutes from the school where I teach). I graduated at the bottom of the top 10% of my graduating class with a 3.83 GPA.  I was active in chorus for three years (being section leader of the second soprano section of the all-women's Silvertones choir my senior year), Student Council (where I was secretary my senior year), National Honors Society, Beta Club, and other great organizations. From September 2000-April 2004, I attended Flagler College in St. Augustine and graduated with Magna Cum Laude honors. That time around, I graduated 14th in my graduating class. I think better than anything, though, is that I met a few of the greatest friends I have ever had in college.

I have received many honors in my teaching career. For the 2009-2010 school year, I was chosen to be the grades 3-5 national teacher advisor for the Scholastic corporation. For the 2010-2011 school year, I belonged to the Scholastic Advisory Board with over 100 educators from all over the United States. In September 2011, I have been chosen (by random) to attend my first NASA Tweetup at the Kennedy Space Center for the GRAIL mission. I get to see INCREDIBLE history up close. At school, I have been a two-time Teacher of the Year finalist and the secretary of the School Advisory Council (SAC).

Eventually, I plan on heading back to college to earn a Master of Arts in Elementary Reading or Curriculum. I  desire to become a college professor.

Me standing with one of my best friends, Allyson, when graduating from Flagler College in April 2004.
Fifth grade graduation in 1993. 
I was kind of an outsider growing up... I wouldn't have it any other way. My experiences have shaped me into the dedicated, determined, and inventive person I am today.

Interesting facts about Ms. Jasztal:
- I am fascinated with giraffes. In March 2010, I went on the safari at Busch Gardens where I saw the giraffes up-close.
- I correspond with authors online every once in a while- Barney Saltzburg, Esme Raji Codell, Dean Lorey, Cynthia Lord, and Todd Fonseca. My “number-one” children’s author is Sharon Creech, so I hope at some point and time that we can correspond, even if it is once.
- My favorite types of books: I enjoy reading and writing realistic and historical fiction. However, some fantasy books intrigue me, and I tend to find a lot while perusing in bookstores that interest me greatly.
- I have a goal to travel to all fifty states- eventually. Obviously, I don’t have the means or the time yet. Prior to 2005, I had only been to five states- Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Missouri. I had to change that quickly, so I agreed to go on a fast-paced, adventure-filled road trip with my mother in June (2005). We were able to see North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Yet it certainly did not stop there. The following summer, I told my best friend (a kindergarten teacher) that I wanted to meet a few of my aunts and cousins in Wisconsin. We turned out going through Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Not long after that, I was also able to see a little bit of Ohio. June 2007 brought another adventure- Michigan. Obviously I need to drive west, but I haven’t found a reason to do so yet. I don’t know if I got this all correct exactly, but I have been to 19 states.
- I have also been to Canada and through Washington D.C. a little. (Obviously D.C. is not a state- otherwise, I would have bragging rights to #20!)
- I have a lot of goals for myself professionally. After attending and graduating from graduate school, I hope that I can get at least one book published. I mentioned that I have friends who are authors, yet of course it is a challenge to even go down that road in the first place. Of course, I want to help my students to make all kinds of neat resources online as well- podcasts, an awesome, interactive magazine, and videos. I have already achieved a few goals- one, of course, was doing anything possible for Scholastic. Also, of course, I have goals of becoming a professor of elementary education at a Florida college.
- Attending theatrical events and concerts is also exciting for me- I am absolutely intrigued by music.
- I listen to most kinds of music and admire many, many recording artists and groups: soft rock, country, hard rock, pop, R + B, soundtracks, classical...

Most importantly, I value education and let my students know I value them greatly. They may not believe it, but they make me stronger and give me hope for a brighter future every day.

Written September 2010: 

“I want to do something that matters, say something different, something that sets the whole world on its ear. I want to do something better with the time I’ve been given. I want to try to touch a few hearts in this life, leave nothing less than something that says ‘I was here’.”

These lyrics reverberated the walls of our school’s all-purpose room this afternoon as our school’s students in third, fourth, and fifth grade gathered for an important assembly. Though the 400 students in the cafeteria may not have noticed the significance behind the program at first, it was indeed life-changing. It focused on the lyrics to “I Was Here” by Lady Antebellum (our school’s song) as well as an inspirational quote from Winston Churchill about never giving up and preparing for the opening of our school’s time capsule after twenty years of being buried on the school grounds.We also looked at pictures of college campuses in the southeast.

It made me realize how quickly time passes right before our eyes, and we are unaware of all that can occur in such a short period of time. The students I taught during the 2004-2005 school year are now 15, 16, and 17 years old in their sophomore year of high school. They are really beginning to think about what they will do when they graduate in two and a half years. Yet even more appalling (in a good way), those who were in kindergarten my first year of teaching are now sixth graders in middle school, and even last year’s students somehow emerged from adorable kindergartners to mature, admirable fifth graders in what seemed like a brief period of time. I thought about the student I posted about last night: Kaitlyn, who passed away two years ago and would be graduating from high school in 2013 as well. Students are assigned to our classrooms for a brief period of time, but hopefully we can guide, impact, and inspire them. Hopefully we as teachers can make our mark with our students and tell them things that make a difference in their lives.

Isn’t that why we chose to enter the teaching profession in itself?

The Teachers Who Changed My Life 

I know I had a significant teacher- or actually, a few. I had approximately fifty teachers between kindergarten and my senior year of high school, I am certain, but only a few truly stood out. No offense to the rest, but three of my teachers changed my life.

I have shared with my students what my childhood was like. I was incredibly unpopular, but it has shaped me to be who I am today. I was kind of what one may refer to as an “outcast”. In some ways, I was ahead of the game, yet in other respects, I fell short.

The first teacher who told me that I mattered was my first grade teacher, Mrs. Clemons, in 1988. Kindergarten had been an extremely difficult experience for me. No offense to my second kindergarten teacher, but I endured harsh criticisms and was socially behind my peers. The staff at the school talked about me without my mother knowing, which I found out years later. They were trying to place me into the special education program because of my mannerisms. Not everyone who reads this blog knows me well, but I encountered great difficulty with standing still (sometimes, I still do, and it’s a challenge) and general social skills (making and keeping friends, specifically). I was also extremely bored because I began reading at four years old and was already reading books on a second grade level. I was not being challenged, and because of that, I acted out.

Mrs. Clemons was thought of highly by many of the parents at the school, so my mom requested she become my first grade teacher. What I remember most about Mrs. Clemons is that she was fair. She discovered that I had a talent for writing and let me attend the county’s Young Author’s Conference, which made a tremendous difference in my life at the time. Meeting the author Verna Aardena and cartoonist Fred Lasswell was something I still remember doing today. What is most sensational about this life-changing teacher is that she still sends Christmas cards to my family every single year. Being in her class increased my confidence, and I became a straight-A student who would never receive any grade below a B throughout my entire academic career.

The second teacher who changed my life was my eighth-grade United States History teacher, Mr. Kern. He possessed an immense passion for history. This dynamo of a teacher would do anything to get us to learn, and I literally mean anything. Mr. Kern got me involved in extracurricular activities; I was a member of the Brain Bowl (academic) Team, though my contributions were somewhat awful, in my opinion. I was grateful he gave me a chance. He was the first teacher who consulted with me about attending college in the future and exposed me to The College of William and Mary. Though I have never stepped foot on that campus, I plan to see how beautiful it is someday. He was one of the main influences in why I entered the education field- school can be exciting and pertinent.

The last teacher who impacted me on a mind-blowing level was Ms. Celinda Bailey. She was my high school chorus instructor. I did not have the greatest intentions in joining chorus; I wanted to exit Journalism and develop my singing voice because it was non-existent. I still remember standing in my dining room when I was a freshman in high school trying to sing “Namely You” from the musical Li’l Abner. When I attempted to sing, my voice did not carry, my shoulders rose and fell constantly, and I cracked attempting higher notes. Heading to tryouts, I had never been more embarrassed in my 14 years. Joining chorus one year later, my confidence as a singer was non-existent. One of the first times I tried to sing, she had me lie on the ground with my shoulders pinned down. I remember struggling quite a bit and then having to stand against a door, pinning my shoulders down again. Though it was torturous, the thirty minutes she set aside to help me changed my life.

When I tried out for Disney’s Candlelight Processional in September in my junior year of high school (I was singing with the all-women’s choir by then, luckily, and not the beginning choir like I had the year before), I did not make it at first. Yet I continued practicing, and I remember possessing more vocal strength by the time competition came along the following March. The following year, as a senior, I became one of the class’ six section leaders, which was a huge honor, considering there were over forty people in my chorus class. Ms. Bailey did change my life because I absolutely love singing now as an adult. I am not a fantastic singer at times, but I am confident in my abilities and know I can achieve incredible things musically. I developed my “head voice” as a singer and wrote over 100 songs when I was a college student.

Without Mrs. Clemons, Mr. Kern, and Ms. Bailey, I am certain I wouldn’t be who I am today. I will always emulate them as I progress through my career.