Alyssa Dunn an elementary school teacher in Jersey City, from Ohio and now in Jersey and we’re so excited to have her on today.

Watch her interview here:

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Read her interview here:

Alice: Hey everyone, I’m Alice, the social media manager for Jubilance and today I’m talking with Alyssa Dunn. She’s an elementary school teacher in Jersey City, from Ohio and now in Jersey and we’re so excited to have her on today. So welcome Alyssa.

Alyssa: Hi everyone.

Alice: Awesome. I just want to start with some fun questions. What are some of your must-haves that you always have in your purse?

Alyssa: So I actually don’t carry a purse that often. I carry this like big book bag. I mean, it’s a nice looking book bag, but, when I do have a purse, I guess my essentials would be, like the medicated lip balm, like I have chapstick, regular stuff doesn’t work. I have to have the medicated, sunglasses because I have, really light eyes. So even the cloudy days will like make me squint. And just, you know, money, I don’t have a lot. Very minimal.

Alice: That’s great. What is your, favorite book that you’ve read lately?

Alyssa: So I’m very much into, suspense, murder, thriller. And so, my husband bought me this book for Christmas. I think last year and it was, it’s called ”Reconstructing Amelia” and I’ve read so many thrillers in between, but it’s definitely one to check out if you wanna keep turning the pages. I wasn’t a huge reader when I was younger, so I’m, I feel like the thrillers and suspense kinda keep me updated and keep me going back. So yeah, it’s definitely one to check out.

Alice: Is that the same with TV or are you just like all thrillers all the time?

Alyssa: No, I, I mean I’ve watched like multiple seasons of Criminal Minds and you know, all those and there’s the show You–

Alice: Oh, I heard that’s really good.

Alyssa: Yeah. I haven’t watched the, I, I’m not gonna say the spoilers if anybody’s watching because I haven’t finished the second season. But yeah, it’s, it’s very interesting and suspenseful and you never know what’s going to happen. So it’s definitely one to check out.

Alice: Yeah, I started watching it with my sister and we had to stop because we were so freaked out by like New York City and like, we were like, I don’t really have blinds, maybe I should do something about that.

Alyssa: My friend who used to live in the city said that they were filming in the bookstore that they, it’s, they changed the name of it, but they were filming in that bookstore in the first season. And so, I mean, that would be, you know what I’m saying? So I’m like, Oh, maybe I want to go check out this bookstore to see where they filmed it. You know?

Alice: I’m terrified

Alyssa: Yes. There’s like people out there, and I think it’s like a Twitter thing too, that the, they’ll post it, like they’ll have crushes on the character. And I’m like, this is insane. Like, why would you fall in love with this guy? Why would you even like, like him? But I think because he’s still appealing when he’s not, like being weird and a creep and harming people, but I don’t know. That’s weird, so, yeah.

Alice: Can you talk about where you’re living now? You’re in Jersey City, right?

Alyssa: Yeah. So I’m in, so there’s, back in the day there was multiple small cities and so then eventually kind of Jersey city became bigger and bigger. So there was like Hoboken Heights or something. I mean, if somebody’s from here, you know, don’t quote me on it, but there were smaller cities and now I live in what’s called Jersey City Heights. So there’s Hoboken, which is down. And then literally I’m up on a cliff and then we’re called Height. So it’s Jersey City Heights. So, like I said, Jersey City, there’s like downtown, which is really nice restaurants. Up here is more just kind of homes and nice, cozy spots for coffee and stuff.

Alice: Yeah. Can you talk to me about the move from Ohio to Jersey? What was that like, just like uprooting from Cleveland where I knew from?

Alyssa: So, you know, ever since I was young, I never planned to leave even my hometown, you know, I was always planning just to stay home, become a teacher, and just, you know, be there, have family, whatever, and just be close to my family. I didn’t think about moving out of state or anything. And, then I met my boyfriend who now is my husband and he, you know, was auditioning, he’s, I want to move to New York, after like six months of us dating cause like I, that’s my plan. He’s like, if you want to come with me, you can, if not like I understand. And so that was like my parting ways. I was like, okay, so he’s telling me now, which is amazing, but do I want to do this? And I was like, sure, I’ll do that. And yeah, about a year, year and a half later, he went on auditions and stuff and then, you know, got accepted into the new school and we had already moved in together like a few before that. And then we were like, okay, well we have to like pack up and move here. So, I don’t even remember what your original question was now I’m like just talking, but you know, moving here, oh, your question was what’s the difference between the two places…

Alice: What are the differences that you saw?

Alyssa: You know, just the city being the air is different, like the quality, the air quality being in the city is completely different. I have a lot of plants around, you can’t see them, but I do. And just walking down the street, I’m used to going, you know, for a walk or going outside and people staring at you and saying, “Hey, good morning, how are you?” And I’m like, “Oh good, thanks. You?” And they’re like, “Good.” And I don’t know these people, you know, at home in Ohio and in here you walk down the street and it’s like everyone has their business. You know, everyone’s got somewhere to be, which is fine. But to me I just felt like offended at the time. I’m like, who am I gonna? What? You know, and the pacing of everything. Everything is just so fast here. You know? Oh, what do you want? Dah, dah, dah, dah. What do you want to drink? Dah, dah, dah, dah. You know, people are nice about it, but if you’re going for a coffee and it does, it’s quick, which is amazing, but it’s also, you know, somebody not from around here with would think, Oh, I mean, just the way that they’re, I don’t know. Do you know what I mean?

Alice: Yeah. It’s, it’s very different. It’s shocking when you first move here.

Alyssa: Yeah, it was, it was an eyeopener. And even my sister came to visit me for the first time, last year and she was like, I’m prepared. I’m ready. And I’m like, okay, do you have what we call in Ohio tennis shoes? Did you bring them? They are going to be supportive because we’re going to have to do a lot of walking? And she’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” And I’m like, “Okay. And we get here and day one, she’s like ahhh..”

Alice: Oh her feet.

Alyssa: It was like, well, that was a lot of walking.

Alice: My mom always complains about that. She’s like, how far is this like restaurant? And it’s like 10 blocks. And she’s like, “Urgh”.

Alyssa: you know, I got rid of my car.

Alice: Wow.

Alyssa:  I kind of forget about that now, but I walk to work, I don’t have to take any transportation, except for the giant elevator that takes me down from cliff down into Hoboken. So it’s only, it’s 20 minutes commute. I can’t tell my boss that I’m late because of traffic, so. But yeah, it was, it was very hard to be in this world, especially, I became a nanny first before I was a teacher and so I started off and, you know, my husband and you know, Joe, he’s in this, you know, moving, going, meeting people, classmates, and I’m a nanny and I didn’t have anybody around. So, you know, trying to mingle with people. I tried that, like there’s like a meetup website that I tried and it was, yeah. So it was good, but it was definitely difficult to be like the only people here. As you know, as we were moving and grooving. So, but eventually, you know, met people through work and yeah. Lots of friends now.

Alice: Talk to me about Cleveland. How often do you get to go back?

Alyssa: Pretty often, about three times a year. Usually, it’s the summer and then for the holidays and try to either spring or fall, I usually choose one of them to go back.

Alice: That’s a good amount of time.

Alyssa: Yeah. Yeah, there’s a lot. I know that there’s a lot of people that are like, “I haven’t been home since, you know, last summer” and I was like, “Yeah.” But it’s pretty convenient. The flight is only 45 minutes and that’s like by the time I get my drink and my pretzels, we’re landing. So, and then the drive’s like eight hours.

Alice: What’s your favorite part about Cleveland? I know you guys like have a heart for Cleveland. Tell me.

Alyssa: Yeah, Joe was actually in here and he was, I like typed up some, I was just trying to think of some things to say. And one of them was, I just feel like our pride, we have so much pride for Cleveland and you know, we wrap it in the, you know, we, I feel like a city was like one of the first ones to have these like t-shirt companies to come out and be like, you know, Cleveland pride shirts and all this stuff. And, you know, it’s just like suburbs, it’s just family. So it’s just like, I guess my favorite part would be the fact that we do have like a losing football team all the time, but we all show up, we’re all there. And it’s like very, it’s a community. And obviously my family is there, Joe’s family is there. So I think my favorite part is just, there’s so much love in Cleveland. I don’t, [inaudible] I remember that my first time getting off the air, like getting home for the first time since moving here. And there’s a Starbucks, I’m like, I’m tired, I’m gonna go and I’m waiting in line and this woman is sitting there, she’s got a Hawaiian shirt on and, and she looks over at me and she’s like, so she’s like, where are you heading to, where are you traveling? And I had been so [inaudible] from people interacting with me that I was like, and I had to remember like, “Oh, she’s like kind, she’s nice, she’s from Cleveland and she wants to chat and it’s just a normal greeting.”

Alice: That’s weird when you go anywhere else, I find that real[?] like, “Why are you talking to me?”

Alyssa: I’m like looking at her and I’m like, “Oh. I’m like, I just got here”, you know? And it was really very sweet. So I just I guess I that, that type of mannerism I love about Cleveland. And obviously there’s other cities and towns that do that too, but that’s just what I know. And it’s just, it’s just nice.

Alice: I was in Cleveland a couple of months ago for a conference. I was talking to Joe about it.

Alyssa: Oh really?

Alice:  Yes. And there was so much good food there. Can you talk about your favorites? I had some amazing German food.

Alyssa: Okay. So there’s a lot of German, like good German and Polish food. You know, it’s hard because you know, you’re, if you’re in the city, there’s like a couple of good places. I know, like Michael Simon has, I think Lola’s there.

Alice: I tried the barbecue one

Alyssa: You did? Okay. Yeah. And there’s a decent taco place that was right down the street from, this is, this town called Lakewood and it’s kind of reminds me of the Jersey City Heights area. If it was like more spread out, less people. Joe and I, that’s where we moved for six months before we then moved here. And so it’s like, I kind of little town that people after college moved to and you know, it’s just nice, there’s apartments and there’s small homes and stuff. And there’s this place called Barrio. Some people love it and some people kind of stay [inaudible] from it, but it’s just this delicious taco place. It’s decently priced and delicious margaritas, so that’s a really good place to check out. But honestly my mom’s cooking is probably my favorite food because she’s Italian and she makes homemade sauce and you know. And then my grandma’s on my dad’s side, pierogies. I just learned how to make them so.

Alice: What? That’s amazing. Are you Polish?

Alyssa: Yeah.

Alice: Oh wow. That’s so cool.

Alyssa: So not 100% or anything. I’m kind of like a mutt, but, between my mom, my mom’s mostly Italian and my dad has a lot of Polish in himself.

Alice: Oh, that’s so cool.

Alyssa: Yeah. Once I learn it, I’ll make you some.

Alice: Yes, please. Okay. Tell me about your favorite parts of Hoboken now, like and Jersey City.

Alyssa: Okay. So, my, I guess I’ll start with Hoboken cause that’s where I work. And we lived there for the first year. I love this new place. It’s called Alfalfa and it’s a salad place and I don’t want to sound, you know, but it is these giant bowls, like giant bowls of salad and you can either build your own or, you know, pick one from them. And I feel like in the city you have all of these other places where you can go and just literally just get a salad to go. And here it was mostly like, bodegas or Deli places or you know, restaurants. So they have these delicious salads. But what they get you is, it used to be kind of like a restaurant with like desserts and like a bakery and they kept part of the bakery. So they have donuts and these doughnuts remind me of like dough doughnuts in the city and they’re just like these delicious like honey lavender and like, you know, these, what else did they have? Like fairy bread they had.

Alice: What is fairy bread?

Alyssa: So it’s some sort of term that Australians use, but it was like, I don’t, I don’t remember specifically, but they use it, they put, I can’t talk right now. I’m so sorry. They started making it for the fires in Australia. So then 100% of the proceeds go to the Australian fires and just trying to support. But I haven’t tasted it yet, but I keep seeing it and it’s like fairy bread. But I’ll, I’ll, I’ll definitely let you know. And they have, like berry ones too. And, cinnamon toast crunch ones. So when I get my salad, I have to get a doughnut. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Benny’s pizza.

Alice: No, I don’t think so.

Alyssa: Okay. So Benny’s pizza is, you know, your regular New York style pizza, even though we’re in Hoboken. But the one thing about them is that their pizza sizes are the size of a newborn baby.

Alice: Incredible.

Alyssa: So like, it’s like, you know, huge. And if you walk out with a single slice, you’re walking out like holding it with two hands or a baby.

Alice: That’s incredible.

Alyssa: Yeah. So I mean, if you haven’t had it, you definitely have to check it out. Next time you’re around come on over. And then for Jersey City Heights, there’s this one place. It’s, you know, you, you go in there and you’re gonna know you’re gonna get a good meal, you’re going to pay a little bit more money. it’s right around the corner from us. It’s a two, not even a two-minute walk. And you have to get a reservation cause it’s a small little place. It’s called Cordue and it’s, it just opened last year and it’s a little Italian place.

Alice: Perfect.

Alyssa: And it’s so good. And they just post their menu and whatever ingredients they have that day or that week is their menu. So they’ll have like seasonal items and like one or two items that are always on there. Cause it’s something they can always make. but they’ll have, you know, a different kind of chicken dishes. And we had this like ricotta honey toast to begin with. And then we had, it was just different types of pasta. I can’t even pronounce it. But it was so, it was just so good and it’s a BYOB place. So yeah. But it was, it’s just really nice to have right around the corner.

Alice: Can you talk to me about, how you became a teacher? You said like even in, in, back home in Ohio, you were thinking about becoming a teacher. Can you talk about, that thought process and then also becoming one here in Jersey?

Alyssa: Okay. So, you know, I’m, first of all, I’m a kindergarten teacher, so I, one of my, one of my things I like to do with them is they hold the, I have this cutout apple and it has like their age and the date and it’s like the first day of kindergarten, the last day. And one of them, it says like, what do you want to be when you grow up? And, you know, I always ask them, police officer, teacher, doctor. And I always think to myself like, I’m pretty sure I said I wanted to be a teacher when I was in kindergarten. So I don’t know how many people in their life say what they were going to be when they were little and then have it come true. But, I, I guess it started when I was little and my parents split and then both of them got remarried and then they each actually both had boys a year apart. So they’re like 7 or 8 years younger than me. So I became their babysitter and I would watch them and sometimes I would watch both of them together. So my parents did talk and communicate when I was younger until I was 18 and became an adult and then they didn’t have to talk to each other anymore, but they were very supportive of me and they were able to, so I’ve watched [inaudible] both my brothers, at the same time. And so I had to become that leader-role. And then, in the summertime when I was in high school, there’s this summer program for the kids. It’s called Green Box. It was literally like a green mailbox, that’s a lock, you lock it at the park. And I was kind of like summer camp person that would go and unlock it and each day would be a different craft.

Alice: Wow. That’s so cool!

Alyssa: Yeah. So, you know, I just got paid over the summer to, you know, one day it would be kickball, one day it would be making like lanyards, one day it would be pet rocks or whatever. So I did that and babysitting. And, then in, high school, there was this really cool program, which I really feel like, they need to do more of this, in our schools is I got to, I got accepted in it, it’s called teacher exploration. So teacher education exploration. And I got to through the community college, I got to go and observe classrooms and to help with lesson plans and grade and do bulletin boards in my senior year. Like half the day I left and I did, I went to elementary schools and did that. And then on Fridays we would have like seminar and we would, you know, learn. And so that gave me college credit. Yeah. It was like, you know, four credit hours or something. But it was something, it was, it was really rewarding. And I’m like, I wish that anybody could have an experience like that to then be able to decide whether or not it’s something that they want to do. Because there’s some students that like went through the program and then they decided they didn’t want to do it.

Alice: Yeah. You have to figure out and you have to [inaudible] that you loved it.

Alyssa: Yeah. So I did, community college for two years and then I was gonna move down to Ashland University, which is like an hour North of Columbus, Ohio. But then I decided I wanted a car instead. So I bought my car and, I did the partnership through Ashland which is still on the community college campus. So then I graduated and then moved in with Joe like right after, and then he got into school and I didn’t even have my teaching license yet. So we moved and then became a nanny, then became a daycare, toddler preschool teacher. Then I got my license. And then I became a sub because, for some crazy reason, teachers need multiple years of experience before they get hired, which is, doesn’t make any sense. So I guess my nannying and toddler preschool teacher and then subbing was enough, and then became a reliever replacement for third grade, which third grade was fun, it was fun memories, but I now am a kindergarten teacher and I love it.

Alice:  You always wanted to be a kindergarten teacher?

Alyssa: I knew I didn’t want to do third grade, but I feel like there is something about my, you know, I always remember my kindergarten teacher. And she had this like blue piano, I believe. I know she had a piano, I think it was powder blue, I’m not sure. You know, in like these, I remember these puppets, I remember the play areas and she would sing songs to transition the kids from place to place. And she was very much like, like sound of music kind of woman and you know, and so those are the moments I cherish. So I tried to in my classroom incorporate it. I mean, I don’t sing very often. I sing to them, but it’s not very good.

Alice: That’s nice. Yeah. Wow. Do you incorporate, like those elements, like the puppets or like what do you do in your classroom?

Alyssa: So I do a lot of like, hands. So, my centers and stuff, so we call them centers and they’re in their little groups ones or one might be a reading group or writing group, another one is where they build words or it’s sensory-based. So I really enjoy getting them to touch sand and write words in the sand or build letters or string beads with letters on them. And because pen and paper or pencil and paper, it’s good, but I’d like to have things that they can touch and build with but also learn at the same time.

Alice: That’s so cool and sand to learn to write. I wanna use sand, that sounds cool. Go to the beach and learn.

Alyssa: I know, right?

Alice: You can imagine they’re there.

Alyssa: Yeah. Well it’s funny you say that cause I collect like shells and I will write letters on them so then they’ll spell using the shells. I love the beach too. So I tried to bring the beach with me at school.

Alice: Awesome.

Alyssa: Yeah. So I mean I, I do have some, some puppets, I don’t use them a lot, but I’m more of a, you know, I tell my students I’m weird because the term weird can sometimes be misconstrued. People say, “Oh, you’re weird.” And I’m like, “I know I am.” And so I tell my students, you know, if they say you, you’re weird, “Just say thank you because you know, it’s okay.”

Alice: that’s what makes you fun.

Alyssa: I said, you know, if you’re normal, then that’s, that’s not fun. Exactly. So, so, that’s what, when they say, when I say, Ms. Dunn, you’re weird, you know, I don’t, I don’t say, “Hmm”, and I’m like, “I know, right?”

Alice: Incredible.

Alyssa: So it’s, it’s fun.

Alice: Yeah. And something big on our podcast is, talking about womanhood, for you, I know this definition is constantly changing. It could change like 30 seconds after you say it, but right now in the present, what womanhood mean to you?

Alyssa: You know, I was, this is a question that, you know, I don’t really think about a lot. And so it’s like you’re going through and you’re just being yourself and you’re just doing your thing. And I think that womanhood is, I don’t know, like it’s I feel like it’s very much would people think about it. They’re like, okay, like, you know, periods and this and you know, PMSing and everything. And I just feel like, to me, womanhood is something that should be powerful. I feel, I would feel empowered. I feel empowered. I feel like, I dunno, it’s very much like you’re, you’re killing me here with this question.

Alice: That’s okay. You’re talking about like female empowerment and just going for it.

Alyssa: But I also just feel like they’re, you’re right, there isn’t a definition and then I feel like we are creating our own paths and I feel like the definition is your womanhood should be your own path. You know what I mean?

Alice: Yeah. And that’s kinda like what you’re talking about with being weird, like being who you are, you’re being your fun self. So that makes, that makes a lot of sense.

Alyssa: I think I watched like a lot of, you know, YouTube videos that have like these women on there that say like, you know, I’m trying this on this and this is this, you know, I’m trying the new period product or I’m trying the new whatever. And, and it’s just like at the end of the videos too, they just end up like, oh, well I prefer this or I prefer that and it’s just cool that womanhood now I feel like we’re talking as before we weren’t talking.

Alice: Get that conversation out there.

Alyssa: Yeah. So I feel like, you know, womanhood now it’s conversation and you can go to your own path. So yay. Okay.

Alice: Yeah, perfect. Another question I have for you is if you just like met a woman on the street, had one minute to talk to her, what advice would you give her?

Alyssa: So I feel like that’s a very open-ended question, very open. I’m going to try that. Okay. If I were to, I have a woman stop me and then they ask me for advice or I would give them advice. Very generally I’d be like, “You can do it. Grind it out, you’re there. Don’t give up. Stay weird. Stay positive.” And, I dunno, I just, I, I have this quote that I usually use and it’s not really quote, it’s just tiny little saying, but I say it to Joe and I say it to all my students. I feel like three words is good. You got this. That’s all you need. You got this. If I turn to somebody and they dropped something on the floor and I helped them pick it up, I would just look at and be like, you got this. And I feel like that’s all you need. And then they’re like, I got this, you know? ‘Cause I think that would be my, my, I feel like those three words are so big and so powerful. So I feel like that would be my advice.

Alice: You got this Alyssa. That’s amazing, I loved it. I’m going to take that away, you’ve got this. Alyssa, what is next for you? You’re teaching kindergarten. You’re off to Cleveland. Tell us about–

Alyssa: You know, I am in my third full year. I’m turning 29 at the end of the month. Pisces. Shout out to all the people who are emotional. It’s okay. You got this. But I, you know, I think about it and I’m like, what, what am I doing? What am I, what’s my path? And my path right now is just to continue to perfect my teaching craft. It’s, it’s a crazy job. It’s always changing. You know, I just always looking for new, ways to teach the students. And once I kind of get another year or two, I definitely want to do my masters, but I don’t know what yet, because I am satisfied right now where I am. I don’t see myself being a principal at a school because I see my principals and I give them a lot of credit. So, but I would never want to do it. So my dad’s a principle too, and I, I look at them and I’m like, no. It’s like I’m, you know, it takes a different type of person to do that. And I just like, I wouldn’t want to stray away from the kids, I want to be able to still work with students. So.

Alice: That’s amazing. Is there anything else you’d like to add to our listeners?

Alyssa: I think maybe, you know, I just know that, you know, the listeners are also talking about, you know, PMSing, periods and, and emotional behind it. And I feel like if you are ever struggling with period problems, you know, don’t hesitate to, to reach out or talk to people about it because I’m struggling with that as well. So you have to make sure you go and you, you talk to people because I, you know, I was talking to my friend and I’m like, you know, my, my symptoms are this, this and that. And she’s like, that’s not normal. It’s a little weird. So, you know, just, just make sure that you are verbal with you know, your feminine issues because you never know if, you have a friend that’s really gonna help you out. So, I guess that’s what I wanted to add.

Alice: That’s awesome. Thank you, Alyssa. Thank you so much for being on.

Alyssa: Oh, you’re welcome. Sorry. I’m, I like, I get like, so like nervous, you know.

Alice: That’s great. Thank you

About the author

Alice Cash is the Marketing Manager for Jubilance by day and an award winning Theatre Director by night.  Leading the podcast Weekly Woman, she loves her candid conversations with women from all over the world about how they live and the amazing things they are doing to make a difference. Alice is also the editor of the bi-monthly newsletter the Jubilee, a blog dedicated to the power of female wellness especially concerning menstruation.  She’s worked in France creating theatre pieces and taught drama and filmmaking to women and children in Haiti.  She graduated from Georgetown University and holds two master degrees from NYU and The New School.  Alice has traveled to  40+ countries, including Tibet.  She is a New Yorker and can often be found in Central Park, searching out the best bubble tea, or directing a play, you never know where she’ll show up. @alicesadventuresinwonderworld
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