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Virginia Journal of Education

10 Minutes with…Jennifer Rokasky

Energy Education Coordinator
Local Assn.:  Prince William Education Association    
Years worked in education: 8 years: 7 as a High School AP Environmental Science and Earth Science teacher, 1 in my current position

What is a typical school day like for you?  Depends on the day! The purpose of my position is to help the school division save money through energy conservation; I work with 30 schools (there are 92 total in our county). Typically a site visit happens when the school’s HVAC equipment is scheduled to be off. I will walk around outside, inside or on the roof of the building to make sure everything that’s supposed to be off is off; these visits will sometimes happen early in the morning, in the evening, or on weekends. I also check along the way to see if computers, lights and any electronics are off, too. I document everything I find on an audit form and share this with the principal of the school so he or she can share with the staff to remind them to turn things off. Some days I may be in the office reviewing work orders I submitted or entering bills into a software program that helps us track savings. But typically 80 percent of my job is visiting schools and 20 percent is in the office.

What do you like about your job? I like that I am making an impact. Working as a teacher and being involved with PWEA during the budget process, I know how hard it is for the school division to find money. I had classes with over 30 students due to the budget shortfalls. When I saw the job opening and found out more information, I thought I could make a difference with my passion for the environment and my drive to help save money. My school was very supportive of my decision and thought I would do a great a job. So far, our Energy Management team has saved over $2 million! I also like that I still have the opportunity to visit students and talk about conservation and sustainability and hopefully inspire them to make a difference.

What is hard about your job? Trying to get into a routine! Some days I’m working at night, then one day I may need to get up earlier for a meeting at a school. It was also a challenge learning the specifics of HVAC equipment and its operation. 

What are some of the most fun and unusual things that have happened on the job? The most unusual thing is hearing ghost stories! When I visit schools at night, I get a chance to speak with custodians. Two of my schools apparently have ghosts, though I’m told they’re friendly. So far, I’ve visited those schools when someone is in the building or during the daytime on weekends.

How has being an Association member been helpful to you? I attended the first ever VEA Sparks event in February 2007. It was my second year teaching, and thought it would be an interesting weekend to meet other new teachers with five years or less experience. That weekend, I learned the importance of getting involved with PWEA and politics. I know politics can be a huge turn-off for many people, but the reality I learned was that my job, and the funding I needed in order to get more materials and have smaller class sizes, was dependent on elected officials. From then on I got involved with PWEA and worked with the Government Relations team, meeting with elected officials and expressing my views on education. I feel my involvement with PWEA helped grow my leadership and communication skills and I was able to express that in my job interview, which I think may have helped me get my current position. 


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