East Montpelier Elementary
When we met her, Jillian Zeilenga, an elementary teacher at East Montpelier School, was seated on the floor of her classroom, avidly listening as her students shared the short stories they had created. Now, in her sixth year at the school, Zeilenga also thrives on participating in team sports, coaching the Girls on the Run program, training for long-distance running events and parenting her two boys, Elliot and Caelan, one of whom is presently a student in her classroom. “Though I didn’t initially think of myself as a teacher, I knew I was drawn to working with children,” she said. After moving from Ottawa, Canada to Vermont, Zeilenga began working at the Turtle Island Children’s Center, an early childcare center in Montpelier, and pursued her Master’s Degree in Education from Johnson State College.
I have always been into sports,” said Zeilenga. “They are a good release for me and keep me out of trouble,” she said. Zeilenga is a member of a central Vermont basketball league and an indoor soccer league, she works out at a local fitness center and she trains for long distance running events. “Last year I was part of the Ragnar, a three day relay race in the Adirondacks,” she said. This year she is planning on running half of the Vermont City marathon.
Zeilenga is focused on encouraging girls to integrate physical fitness into their lives and serves as a Girls on the Run Coach for a variety of grade levels. “Because I have a family of boys, I want to be a good role model for self- esteem and learn how to support each other.”
“My definition of wellness is taking time for oneself, finding balance, leading by example, encouraging others to come along with you and finding something that makes you happy,” said Zeilenga.
“Zeilenga walks the walk and talks the talk and truly cares about kids without hesitation,” said Kathy Christy, one of her colleagues. “She lives and breathes what she believes, she works out, eats healthy and encourages others to do so.”