Dean of Students Jenny Eustice was once a typical college student at the University of Minnesota with hopes to one day become a physical therapist. However, her plans drastically changed junior year after her high school AP Biology teacher mentioned needing help with large classes. Eustice took up the challenge and got her first taste of teaching after stepping in to volunteer after school a couple times a week.
“I think that my junior [year] in college was when I really realized I loved being in a high school setting,” Eustice said. “I loved interacting with students who had an idea of what they wanted to do with their lives but maybe are still in their formative years.”
She received her teaching license and master’s of education and soon found herself back at her high school alma mater in Minneapolis to work as a teacher. There, she met her soon-to-be husband, who was the director of operations of wrestling at the University of Iowa. After their engagement, Eustice moved to Iowa City and applied for jobs in the area. She was hired at West High in 2009 and taught various science classes. However, when she was working at her first teaching job, Eustice made a promise to her mentor, the assistant principal of the school, to explore leadership and administration positions. In 2013, Eustice took that to heart and completed a program at the University of Northern Iowa to receive her administrator’s license.
It wasn’t until 2020, when she got a phone call from Principal Gregg Shoultz, that her license would be put to use. As the dean of students, Eustice ensures that students and families have their needs met.
“Right now, we’re just trying to make sure that students have access and availability to school, which is the extra challenge of everything starting online,” Eustice said. “If students haven’t been attending, I’ve been working with the counselors and our student family advocates and other administrators in the building to get in touch with families just to see what they need.”
She has found unique requirements and differences between her current administration job and previous teaching roles. Now, Eustice has the opportunity to work with all West students instead of only the ones that were in her classes. Additionally, she has been able to encourage teamwork within diverse groups.
“I’m very much a systems thinker, so I like to think big picture. I like to build teams, so [I] get a bunch of people who maybe don’t even know each other or are not on the same page and get them to believe in the same mission and work towards it,” Eustice said. “I’m just really excited to be a part of the team that we have here at West High and continue to make West an even better place for all students.”
Online learning has provided Eustice with an opportunity to continue to learn and try new things. She hopes that instead of using disruptions this year as an excuse, she will use them as an advantage to continue to improve students’ school experiences.
“I’m such a people person, and I’ve definitely struggled in the last six months, personally just with feeling like things were taken away or feeling disconnected to my friends and family,” Eustice said. “I think building those relationships with students, I’m empathizing with students because [I] understand that we’ve all been through some pretty significant trials and tribulations.”
Though Eustice is not currently able to see all students in person, she finds her job rewarding and is looking forward to connecting with more students in the future, whether online or face-to-face. She believes administrators at West are constantly working to better student life for every individual, and she aspires to continue that tradition.
“I want to be able to be an advocate and a support person for every student in this building, whether they are a struggling student who doesn’t want to go to class or they’re a National Merit Semifinalist, I’m here for everyone,” Eustice said. “I thrive on being the positive force in people’s lives, and so if a kid just needs a pep talk for the day, I’m here for it. I want students to know that the door is open, and I’m happy and willing to be their support person.”