The 2019-2020 school year at Cotter has been marked with significant change. Most notably, the renovation of the Roger Bacon building has impacted the Cotter community, but so has the mix of new faces floating down the halls in both staff and students.
One of these new faculty faces is Mrs. Jayci Windsperger, the newest member of Cotter’s teaching staff.
Replacing former staff member Dave Williams, Mrs. Windsperger has been working part time at Cotter as a junior English teacher. Though she might blend in with the majority of her Midwestern colleagues at a quick glance, her Southern accent tells a different story.
“I moved to Minnesota seven years ago from Baton Rouge,” Windsperger says in her faint Southern twang. “[However], I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana.”
Shreveport, a city of about 190,000, is located in northern Louisiana, close to the Texas border.
“I lived with my parents growing up. My family was close, and we did a lot of fishing and camping.”
Indeed, one of Windsperger’s favorite childhood memories involves camping at Lake Catherine, her favorite family vacation destination. She vividly remembers the hours spent boating, waterskiing, and hanging around the lake, often with families from her church.
Spending time outdoors has continued into Windsperger’s adult life, as she still spends time fishing, hiking, and camping in Minnesota.
Windsperger has shared this passion with her family, as she, her husband, Lee, and their three children, Beckett (first grade), Sybil (kindergarten), and Emmett (preschool), spend time camping together.
Windsperger was surprised to notice the similarities in such activities between her past and current home.
“I realized that I could still do a lot of the activities that I did in Louisiana in Minnesota.”
However, Minnesota and Louisiana aren’t without their glaringly obvious differences. Besides a contrast in temperature, both states have distinct and unique cultures.
Windsperger explains that even within the state of Louisiana, culture varies depending on location. “Northern Louisiana is part of the ‘Bible Belt,’ while Southern Louisiana has a much stronger French influence,” she says. However, both regions are notorious for their stylish celebrations, as showcased by convivial parades and festivals.
“We would get a week off of work and school for Mardi Gras,” Windsperger says. “There were constant parties and parades to celebrate the occasion.”
Mardi Gras wasn’t the only time for celebration; parades would be thrown for a variety of occasions, such as St. Patrick’s Day.
“There were even dog parades!” Windsperger says with a laugh.
Nonetheless, parades didn’t always celebrate a holiday; in some cases, they would take place during hurricane season. Though it seems slightly paradoxical, Windsperger explains that during a hurricane, people often struggled with spoiled food and no electricity, as she experienced for herself when Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana in 2008. Therefore, the end of such a storm was cause for celebration. People would pour into the streets, sharing food, laughing, and celebrating in a tight-knit community gathering. Whatever the occasion, the common theme remained a strong family and community-oriented atmosphere.
Additionally, the comparisons between Minnesota and Louisiana parallel the similarities and differences of Cotter and Catholic High School (the previous school Windsperger taught at).
Catholic High School, located in Baton Rouge, is an all-male school. Windsperger describes it as “a very structured curriculum, but one that still makes time for fun.” Though she hadn’t initially expected to teach at an all-boys school, Windsperger says she “really clicked” with the faculty, and it was the people who won her over. Besides teaching art history and ninth and tenth grade English, Windsperger also volunteered with the cheerleading team from the all-girls school. Her favorite memories from Catholic High School involve cheering at football games on the sidelines with the cheerleaders.
“I liked being able to experience the energy of the game up close,” she says.
Though the teaching environment has slightly changed from Louisiana to Minnesota, Windsperger still finds Catholic High School and Cotter to be very similar.
“I really like the people here, and everyone has been so welcoming!” she says. With a laugh, she adds, “The only major difference is the accents!”
Emily Shriver, Windsperger’s fellow English teacher, comments, “Mrs. Windsperger has fit in at Cotter really well. She’s really fun to be around, and she’s definitely made a great addition to our English department!”
Windsperger’s students have also enjoyed her addition to Cotter, as junior Joe Costello praises her “patience” and “energy.” Junior Claire Ebertowski mirrors Costello’s thoughts, as she says, “Mrs. Windsberger’s really fun to have as a teacher, and I love the enthuiasm she has in the classroom.”
Ultimately, though Windsperger has grown accustomed to her home in Winona, her Southern roots still remain an active part of her life, as she and her family often travel to Baton Rouge to visit friends and family. When she isn’t traveling, teaching, fishing, or camping, you can find Windsperger at home with her kids, whom she adores. Her face lights up as she talks about her family’s game nights, their popcorn and movie nights every Friday, and her children’s strong relationships with each other.
Swing on by Room 311 to greet Cotter’s new southern scholar!