Jennifer Bradfield Showing That The Small Things Make the Big Difference


Hannah Osmann , Editor-In-Chief

So often do people forget the biggest impacts that the small things can have, and it’s even more rare for people to stop and think about the effects that teachers have on the lives of their students. For both students and teachers at Erie High, social studies teacher Jennifer Bradfield is a clear example of both of those things.


Though Bradfield’s main field is now American history and politics, it wasn’t always that way, and it wasn’t until one special teacher she had in college that changed that. “In one semester of college I learned more history than I had all throughout middle school and high school,” she reflects. “It went back to how, wow, the teacher can make the difference.” 


That was when, according to Bradfield, she learned that she wanted to become a teacher. At first, she was attending college to become a physical therapist. Though she soon learned that science was not her best subject; by becoming a teacher she could still help others like she always wanted to. 


Bradfield went to college at the University of Wisconsin, and from there began teaching in Milwaukee. There, she worked in a lower income school where she faced many challenges that helped her grow as a teacher in general. 


She explains, “that grooming made me tough as a teacher right from the very getgo.” Bradfield says that it was there at that school in Milwaukee where she truly learned that, “every student has their own story.” According to Bradfield, it wasn’t only that she learned to be tough and push students to their best, but also to understand that the best way to teach was to create a relationship with them. 


After six years teaching in Milwaukee, Bradfield moved to Colorado. That was sixteen years ago, and she has been teaching at different schools in the state ever since. Though socioeconomics change as one moves from area to area, she still continues to take the same principles that she learned from teaching in Wisconsin and apply them to her students in Colorado. 


Chad Cooper, who is now one of the school’s principals, has seen this sort of teaching ideology in action. While he was teaching for his last year in the building, which was the 2019 and 2020 school year, he had the opportunity to share a classroom with Bradfield. Being able to see exactly how she taught her students he says that, “she cares about her students… not just academically but also socially, and about them long term when they leave the school.” 


During the school year, it’s apparent to administrators and other teachers the way that Bradfield pushes her students. As Cooper reflects, he explains that, “she has very high standards for kids in a good way.” He says, “most of the kids that I have talked to have had not only good experiences, but good outcomes.” 


Cooper, also was able to see how she performed during the harsh impacts of Covid 19 on schools and teachers. “You could really see her talent during that time,” he says. He goes even further on to explain that, even during that unprecedented time, she was still constantly fostering growth with high expectations from her students. 


Cooper explains that the unexpected times that the virus had on schools across the country, showed how different teachers were able to adapt. He says, “she still had the content and the skill just in a different way… Just a different medium.” 


Bradfield hasn’t only impacted the lives of students, but has also impacted how they learn at Erie High. “She’s had an enormous impact… schools, curriculums, [things] change, for the better.” Cooper reflects, going even further to say that students who go through her class not only have great experiences in the class, but also perform well on their exams. “I think some of the tactics that she’s used, she’s been able to convey to other teachers,” Cooper explains. 


But Bradfield is not only invested into the school and the students inside it, she’s also invested into the Erie Community. “She’s at a lot of Erie events, her kids go to Erie feeders… she’s really invested,” Cooper says. 


Bradfield explains, “I want students to feel comfortable, especially with topics that we can talk about in this classroom.” She later explains that many conversations happen simply in the hallway before class starts. There, Bradfield talks about things outside of the classroom, investing into her students’ lives. 


Bradfield emphasizes that her experiences teaching in a more low income school in Wisconsin taught her that, “empathy itself goes so far, with whatever situation, whether it’s mental health, whether it’s physical health or socio-economic status, or whatever. Just to be able to communicate with kids and just to be able to understand.” 


Madelyne Adams is a senior at Erie High this year and had Bradfield for both her sophomore and junior years. She explains that the year before the AP exam, the most stressful time of the second semester for most students. When students take the AP exam, they have the opportunity to apply for college credit. Adams describes that Bradfield and the other students in her class had gotten together and created goodie bags for the students in the exam. These bags consisted of snacks, water bottles, and anything else that they might need during the exam. Adams says that this memory, “shows how much she cares about her students.” 


During the other parts of the school year, Adams reflects on what it was like to have Bradfield as a teacher. She says her teaching style is “a little different from most teachers considering that it’s mostly lectures… but the way she teaches things requires you to pay attention.” 


The effects of Bradfield’s teaching style is clear in the testimony of Adams as she says, “what she has shown me is that hard work pays off.” This is not only true for Adams, but also for the countless other students who have been able to have Bradfield in between both schools in the state, but also in Wisconsin. 


Between her job in Wisconsin and the jobs that she has had in Colorado, both at Erie High School and at Mead High School, Bradfield has learned one important thing that she hopes that students would know. She says, “I hope that kiddos know, just how good it is here.” 


Whether it is between seeing Bradfield at Erie events, in the classroom, or in the hallways at school, One thing is clear to both students and teachers alike, that she has brought good and new ideas to the school that will last well into the future.