Lancer Spotlight: Jenny Ribecca joins the Special Education department

“Growing up the way I did, I like to think I have a decent insight of what it’s like to grow up without a lot.”

Jenny+Ribecca+with+her+brother+John+and+their+dog+Sam+in+Wisconsin.

courtesy of Jenny Ribecca

Jenny Ribecca with her brother John and their dog Sam in Wisconsin.

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In addition to a childhood of digging up worms for bait shops, working on the family farm and growing up in northwest Wisconsin. Jenny Ribecca has quite an eventful life story. 

Ribecca is a new LHS special education assistant, and she has a long career in FCPS as a substitute, a parent, and the wife of an FCPS employee.

She grew up in a harsh climate, hot summers and cold winters. Her family was very isolated, in the “boondocks.” She learned to have a fantastic sense of humor with her large family of eight children.

That childhood in a large family influences her “can do” attitude that she shares with students.

Being the youngest sibling of seven and the only college graduate. Ribecca was practically raised by her older siblings. 

“I always looked up to them almost like gods. There was such a huge age gap between my parents and me. My brothers and sisters were really my parents. Such an amazing bunch of people,” Ribecca said. 

After her older brother Joe passed away, he became her inspiration for going into Special Education. Joe was born with Down’s syndrome. Ribecca would spend her days with him while growing up.  

Jenny Ribecca as a child with her parents in 1969. (courtesy of Jenny Ribecca)

Ribecca supports students in  three virtual classes: Physics of Earth-Space science with Lauren Koogle and Modern World History with Dawn Murphy. Ribecca and Koogle originally met a few years ago when they both worked at Frederick High.

“I love working with Mrs.Ribecca, she is so wonderful. When I’m teaching she utilizes the chat box to help students if the missed something. She is great at reinforcing students learning and working with them individually.” said Koogle.

Ribecca’s Google Meets are open during her planning period for any student looking for extra help. “I tutor students in whatever subject they need. I’ve worked in high school long enough to have a pretty good grasp on just about everything, subject wise,” said Ribecca. 

Ribecca started in Frederick County at Thurmont Middle School as a substitute teacher and a parent volunteer in the band department. While being a parent volunteer, her piano skills and college music major came in handy. 

She would take students aside and assist them with band music and accompany students who wanted to be in the solo ensemble.

She considers music to be her first passion, but the pandemic has made it impossible to make music in person with her groups.

Although her college career was cut short because of a lack of money for her education, the dream of a college degree remained strong. Ribecca made the unconventional choice to return to FCC for a degree as an adult.

It’s never too late to be all of who you used to be.”

— Jenny Ribecca

Ribecca also taught at Thomas Johnson High School as a long-term algebra substitute. Having supported students in math class for so long as an assistant, her math skills were sharp enough to handle taking over the class.

Repetition and practice are the key.  Ribecca remembers feeling that she didn’t have a place in high school, moving between honors and regular math. With her adult hindsight, she says she would probably have chosen to major in math if she were going back to school for a 4-year degree.

Ribecca’s most recent school experience is in elementary school. She joined the Butterfly Ridge Elementary staff for a few months before taking a leave of absence to become a nanny for her youngest grandchild, Bridget.  She lovingly uses the term “Granny Nanny.”

Ribecca knows that just one adult can change a student’s life.  During her second year of high school, Ribecca was struggling with paying attention in class.  She was labeled “a dreamer” and “lazy” because ADHD was not yet a recognized issue, and there was no treatment. 

In her most difficult time, her chemistry teacher said, “Jenny. You have a brain. Use it.” 

As simple as those seven words were, something clicked. From that point on she got straight A’s in chemistry and made honor roll for the first time. Ribecca went from being at the bottom to 21st in her class by graduation. She graduated from Hayward High School in Wisconsin with the graduating class of 1983. 

“He was the first person to ever tell me I was smart,” said Ribecca.

Those words of encouragement acted as a light for Ribecca amidst a dark tunnel, she excels in school, work, teaching, and music with a great family and support group behind her.

Ribecca’s goal is to be the transformative teacher for this generation.  It only takes one person to make a difference.