An Open Book: Get To Know English Teacher Jessica Tabak

Get to know first-year English teacher Jessica Tabak.

There's two taglines to the serendipitous story of how Westover English teacher Jessica Tabak met her husband, Ty Finocchiaro. It just depends on the narrative she uses.

"We met in Las Vegas. And also on an airplane. Both are true," she said. "We both had a connector flight in Las Vegas. I started fluffing up my pillow, and there's this person putting his stuff up in the overhead bin, and I was like, 'I thought I had this row to myself?' But it ended up being OK because we hit it off."

A self-described curious, approachable, hilarious, and a little absent-minded individual (before her second cup of tea) Jessica is well-immersed in her first year teaching English at Westover.

"I ended up choosing Westover because I liked the students here best," Jessica said. "And of all the schools I went to, this was the school I could have most imagined myself at age 14 or 15 wanting to go to."

A native of Rhode Island, Jessica has a rich background in writing. A graduate of Providence College, one of her first jobs out of college was at an art newspaper, Nantucket Map & Legend, in Nantucket, Massachusetts as a reporter.

"I did a two-part piece on the Nantucket dump," she said proudly, explaining that Nantucket at the time, was home to one of the most sophisticated recycling facilities in the world.

After working in the newspaper industry, she did a stint at PBS, and then received her Master's In Teaching from American University in Washington, D.C. while she taught middle school. She said growing up, one of the eight things she wanted to be was a teacher. She pursued her PHD in Literature from Brown so she could teach at a higher level. Before coming to Westover this fall, she was a professor at Providence College.

"I wanted to make a move," Jessica said. "Teaching in college is only a small part of what you do. I wanted to be focused on my teaching so I started applying to independent schools."

"Of all the schools I went to, this was the school I could have most imagined myself at age 14 or 15 wanting to go to."

Her teaching style and philosophy is centered on the her students and making sure they develop and hone their ideas and skills.

"If I'm doing all the talking that's a problem, if I'm doing half the talking that's a problem, especially if we're talking about literature and writing," she said. "The reason I'm here is to try and help my students better express their ideas, to communicate them to other people. To do that, it's really my job to help them learn how to cultivate the of sort of gnarly seed of an idea that we get at the beginning of something and help them them mine, hone it and polish it until it's something that they feel really, really proud to share."

This fall semester, Jessica is teaching English II, a class she's teaching all academic year, and English III. In the winter term she'll teach "Illness Memoirs" and "Shakespeare, Undercover". In the spring, she'll teach AP Language and "Mad Scientists", a topic that has always been an interest of hers.

"I've always been obsessed with what is it that drives a scientist to discover?" she said. "We have someone like Dr. Frankenstein whose motives are really emotional and short-sided. And I think that stories like that have always interested me ... it humanizes the scientist."

Beside a love of literature, she's an owner to a seven-year-old corgi that is already become a campus favorite amongst the students. His name is Fizzgig (Hennimore Bartleby) Finobak -- a combination of her and her husband, Ty Finocchiaro's, last names. She's got a streak of green in her hair, she paints abstracts, and is a tea snob. She drinks around eight cups of tea a day.

"Is that a lot?" she asks. "I have 12 different types of organic loose-leaf teas in my apartment now."

Her eclectic personality, witty humor and sense of curiosity have fit in well at Westover this fall.

"(What I'm enjoying most) my students, exploring campus with Fizzy, (and) Wednesday ice cream," she said.