JCJC HEADWAE recipients selected

Written By: Teresa McCreery
Email Address: teresa.mccreery@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2017-12-15 09:19:27

ELLISVILLE – Two highly motivated and hard-working women were selected to represent Jones County Junior College as the Higher Education Appreciation Day, Working for Academic Excellence representatives. Math instructor, Dr. Jessica Bunch of Waynesboro and pre-med/biology major from Moselle, Katelynn McGowen will be honored in Jackson along with 70 outstanding students and faculty members from 34 Mississippi public and private universities and community colleges. This group will be receiving special recognition from the Mississippi Legislature in February, at the 31st annual HEADWAE luncheon as a reward for their excellence in education. 

“Each year it is always a difficult choice to identify who will represent the faculty and students as HEADWAE honorees, and this year was no different. Dr. Jessica Bunch is an outstanding faculty member. She has led our Bobcat Math League for 10 years and has been featured in local publications highlighting her commitment to education and excellence,” said JCJC Academic Dean, Dr. Jason Dedwylder. 

Dr. Bunch began her 15th year teaching math in higher education this fall.  The JCJC alumna has taught at the Ellisville campus for 12 years. During two of those years, she also taught one year at Wayne County High School and one year at the University of Southern Mississippi. Additionally, Dr. Bunch also taught two-and-a-half years at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana.  

“From as far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a teacher, and I love math; so being able to teach math in a higher-education setting is a dream come true for me,” said Bunch.  “I thoroughly enjoy working with students and helping them learn something new or overcome obstacles in their mathematical journeys.  My desire is for that light bulb that comes on when a struggle has been overcome to never go out at all.”
While teaching at Jones, she has earned a Specialist of Education Degree in Higher Education Administration from William Carey University as well as her Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Higher Education Administration. Dr. Bunch introduced the Math Quiz Bowl competition for high school students at JCJC 10 years ago in addition to teaching a full load of classes each semester at Jones. Six years ago, the one-day, Math Quiz Bowl was developed into a six-to-eight week, athletic-related schedule and competition season.  Dr. Bunch has served as the “Commissioner” of the Bobcat Math League (BML) which has won a couple of Mississippi Association of Partners in Education’s University Level Governor’s Awards and the JCJC Math department earned a special Resolution of Commendation from the JCJC Board of Trustees. This fun way of incorporating math, and now STEM subjects through the BML over the last six years at JCJC has benefitted hundreds of high school students and has helped to raise math scores in 22 high schools in the Pine Belt.
“It has been a joy to work with the math instructors and students in the high schools and I am very proud of how the Bobcat Math League has grown and how it has positively affected students. We have witnessed increasing high school math class averages and math ACT sub-scores.  It is our hope that the time and effort students invest in our competition will help lay a foundation that will prove beneficial to them as they progress along in their education and future careers,” said Dr. Bunch.  She emphasized, “None of the math competitions’ growth or the recognition would be possible without the dedication and support of everyone involved from the players, coaches, principals/headmasters and superintendents, to JCJC administration, faculty and staff along with our business partners.”

During her career, Dr. Bunch has taught various high school math courses, as well as college-level math courses such as Fundamentals of Math, Beginning/Introductory Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra, Trigonometry, Finite Math, Business Calculus, Calculus I, Calculus II, Calculus III, Calculus IV, Real Number System, and Geometry/Measurement/Probability. Additionally, Dr. Bunch is a member of the 2017-2018 Mississippi Community College Leadership Academy. This instructor is also still learning ways she can improve her skills.

“I have learned there is no cookie-cutter class of students and that there is more than one-way to explain a concept to students.  By taking the time to explore different learning styles and by constantly developing my teaching style, I have been able to add to my repertoire of teaching methods those that would prove to be the most beneficial to my students,” said Dr. Bunch.

JCJC student nominee, Katelynn McGowen, is a sophomore majoring in biological sciences/pre-medicine and has a long-term goal of working in the pediatric-oncology field. Her background of service on campus and in the community is varied and astounding.  It so impressed her instructors and administrators, they bestowed upon her two of the top honors for JCJC students.

“Our student honoree has displayed leadership and educational excellence through her involvement in the Maroon Typhoon Marching Band as the head drum major and as a member of the Charles Pickering Honors Institute. Katelynn has also been named as a New Century Pathway Scholar at Jones. We are proud of both Dr. Bunch and Katelynn and look forward to the great things we know they are going to accomplish in the future!” said Dr. Dedwylder.

McGowen is also the VP of Leadership for the international honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, Rho Sigma chapter at JCJC, she earned JCJC’s Who’s Who, Hall of Fame and Letter “J” Awards, and she is a member of the JCJC Student Government Association, Baptist Student Union, Sigma Kappa Delta English Honors Society, and the College Republicans Club. Off-campus, McGowen has served as Ellisville’s 2016 Miss Hospitality, and she volunteers with the Forrest General Hospital, Spirit Girls organization and with the Hattiesburg Elks Lodge as the current Mississippi Elks Camp Director who is responsible for the kids, the counselors, their safety, and all camp activities.

“I have always strived to do my best inside and outside of the classroom. My goal is to do my best while keeping a positive attitude through it all. Earning HEADWAE honors was a complete surprise to me but I now realize my determination in achieving academic excellence is being rewarded,” said McGowen.

Her plans after graduating from JCJC in May include graduating from the University of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center with aspirations of eventually being a pediatrician at St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Her grandmother’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis, combined with her work with children led her to her career path. However, she has always desired to excel in everything.

“When you commit to academic excellence, you find the success you desire,” McGowen shared. “Being chosen out of the thousands of JCJC students means so much to me. I am so thankful for this wonderful opportunity and I hope to encourage others to do their best even when they think no one is watching.”  


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