Saturday, November 03, 2007
By Mike Salmon
Dispelling the stereotype about cheerleaders is one thing on Jessica Pikulski’s agenda. Donning the burgundy and gold as a Washington Redskin cheerleader on Sundays and making the switch during the week to a reading specialist and teacher’s coach at Cora Kelly Elementary screams volumes for her ambitious personality.
“I’ve learned to work with people,” said Pikulski, who is known as “Jessica P” on the field at Fed Ex Field in Landover, Md., alongside 40 other ambitious A-personality- type women. “You learn to work with each other,” she added.
Even when she is under stress on the job, she keeps a smile on her face, just as she does when the Redskins are losing. “I’ve always been happy-go-lucky,” she said.
Pikulski started with the Alexandria City Public Schools in 2002 at Jefferson-Houston, and moved to Cora Kelly a year later, where she developed a reading center that focuses on helping teachers with students on all levels. The room is full of books and teaching instruction information.
“It’s a classroom for teachers,” she said. The fact that she’s legally deaf made her appreciate books more and shun the television set. “I love reading, I don’t think I would have done all that I’ve done if I wasn’t such a good reader,” she said.
Principal Darren Reed noted her enthusiasm and energy. “She was so instrumental in creating that [reading center]” he said. Pikuski maintains a professional attitude at school and Reed called her a “dynamic addition to our staff.”
Some around the school don’t know about her role as a Redskin cheerleader, and Pikulski doesn’t make a big deal about it. Liam Cousins, 9, saw her recently promoting a program at the YMCA and stared in amazement when he saw her in Redskin cheerleader attire. “I didn’t really know that,” Liam said.
On the cheerleading squad, known officially as “Washington Redskin Cheerleaders,” not “Redskinettes,” she is a “great leader and is always volunteering to help other cheerleaders,” said Melanie Treanor, the events coordinator with the Redskins. “Her patience and kindness spillover from her teaching career,” Treanor added.
Pikulski is originally from New York and was into ballet in high school. “I made fun of the cheerleaders,” she said. She went on to Penn State, and made the transition from ballet to the dance squad while getting her education degree. After graduation, she got a teaching job in Washington, D.C., and then a position on the Washington Wizards dance team. “I wanted to keep on dancing,” she said. At the same time, she was accepted at Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a master’s degree in education.
Somewhere along the way, she crossed over from the Wizard’s dance team to the Redskins and was one of 400 women trying out for the 40-women squad. “It’s really hard,” she said. Each year she has to try out all over again, and earn the right to wear the uniform and represent the team, which is full of highly educated women. There are attorneys, engineers, aestheticians, account managers and mothers also on the squad. “We have a lot of teachers,” Pikulski added.