February 9, 2022 Believer Stories

Riverside Elementary School instructional assistant proves it’s never too late to pursue dreams

Jennifer Maliszewski
Riverside Elementary School instructional assistant and district substitute Jennifer Maliszewski is proof that hard work pays off. The mom of three works full-time in the District while also attending college full-time to become an elementary education teacher.

Sioux City, Iowa – Riverside Elementary School instructional assistant Jennifer Maliszewski is proof that hard work pays off.

Wanting to go back into the workforce as her youngest child started preschool but also have a schedule similar to her school age children, Jennifer applied for instructional assistant and food service openings in the Sioux City Community School District. Three years ago, a call the week before school started changed her life.

“I got a call from Dr. Holcomb offering me a para position one-on-one with a student. I accepted it in a flash,” recalls Jennifer. “I have always had a passion for working with individuals with special needs. It was the best decision I ever made. It really changed my life forever!”

Fast forward to today and Jennifer works with two students in a general education classroom at Riverside Elementary. To help with the shortage of substitute teachers, Jennifer also received her subbing authorization and has been subbing in her building.

And, that’s only the beginning.

The busy wife and mother to three girls is also attending college to earn her elementary education degree with a reading endorsement. While college was not something that Jennifer planned on when she started her role at the District “something clicked” says Jennifer, a 1998 graduate of East High School.

“I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it all and that I was too old. Being a mom and wife, working full-time and adding full-time college to the mix as well, I was worried that I would be spread too thin. I adjusted and my family adjusted,” she says.

Jennifer’s family also became her best cheering section along with the teachers and staff at Riverside Elementary. A veteran teacher told Jennifer that she is a “natural teacher.” The encouragement could not have meant more to Jennifer. An award as “Outstanding Autism Educator” by the Siouxland Autism Support Group and Northwest AEA in May of 2019 with her classroom teacher Kaitlyn Marsh also proved to Jennifer that her work makes a difference.

“My biggest motivation is my daughters. I want them to see how much hard work pays off and that it is never too late to change your life for the better,” adds Jennifer.

Jennifer brings that same encouragement to her students. Building students’ confidence is sometimes the most challenging part of her role.

“Students sell themselves short. They don’t have the self-confidence to believe that they are capable of great things. Sometimes this means they don’t even put in the effort to do the work. We do our best to build them up and show them what great things they are capable of,” she says.

When she’s not at work helping students succeed or succeeding in her college classes, Jennifer enjoys family game nights or fishing with her family, including dog Hank. Her family also attends Iowa State football games as much as possible, allowing Jennifer to visit her oldest daughter, an Iowa State junior.

As she looks forward to graduation in December 2022, Jennifer is hopeful to get a job as a second grade teacher in the District. Until then, she says that she is happy where she is currently.

“I really feel like being hired at Riverside Elementary was meant to be for me, and I was put here because there is more that I’m meant to do and be. Riverside is a family. That’s the feeling you get being here. I have never had this type of dynamic in a workplace before. I love coming to work every day.”