March to the Beat of Your Own Drum

A profile of Jamie Nestor, how she went from a life no one knew about to her position as a high school dean.

An excerpt of this profile was originally published in the February issue of The Polygon.

Hidden away in a secluded office, almost always smelling like something floral or fruit-like, Jamie Nestor sits positioned towards the wooden door a few feet away from her. The 11th grader is seated slouched over on the couch, his bad posture only highlighted more due to the contrast to Nestor’s practically perfect seated posture: shoulders back, sitting up tall, neck inline with spine, and feet planted evenly into the floor. When the kid finally exits, she spins her chair back around as she delves back into her work in front of her, only waiting for the next kid to show up at her door in need of dire help. 

Although living in the city now, Jamie Nestor originally grew up in suburban Massachusetts with her sister, mother, and father. Attending public school she recalls her crammed afternoons where she had to be “tight” with her homework. “Back then, there wasn’t the internet or cell phones, so I did not have those distractions. But we weren’t allowed to watch TV on school nights, which freed up some time. Both of my parents worked and were pretty hands-off when it came to school, so my sister and I needed to be on top of everything ourselves.” 

While school took up most of her time, she spent any extra time she had to attend dance. At the age of 5 she had begun playing classical piano and later, at age 9 or 10, she began to wander off further into the world of performing arts. Attending a “typical dance studio near my house” she studied jazz, ballet, and modern. Although she had experience in all dance forms, she fell in love with ballet. “But ballet – that was special. It was routine, it was a challenge, it was specific, it was musical, it was beautiful.”

As she looks back onto her initial love for ballet she evidently lingers on a specific memory. In elementary school, her and her sister were taken to the Boston Ballet’s Cinderella in the Wang Theater, “which is this beautiful, 100-year old building in the middle of downtown Boston, with red velvet seats and gold leaf everywhere. I’d never seen anything like it.” She continues,We got all dressed up and drove into the city. And watching the grace, athleticism, and musicality of the dancers on stage, never mind their costumes, was the most enchanting and, perhaps, pivotal moment in my young life.” 

Following her love for dance, she decided to apply to Indiana University that, at that time, held the top ballet major in the country. Although “people might have thought I was a little crazy” she decided not to attend despite having been accepted. She had indeed been accepted into Indiana University but with a slight catch, she was required to major in ballet. But this opportunity was not quite what she wanted saying “I wanted the opportunity to both study something else and be closer to my family.”

As a result, she instead shifted her complete focus onto another profession, teaching. Her great aunt had taught ESL, English as a Second Language which helps non-native speakers learn English, as well as kindergarten teacher. Her own experience teaching varied from her and her sister helping their great aunt in the summer to peer tutoring regularly in high school and tutoring younger kids on the weekend that lived in her town noting that she “really loved the 1:1 aspect of teaching.” 

Nestor decided to fully immerse herself into teaching when she became a Latin teacher in 2006 at her old high school for over a decade. Although she loved this job, she was not yet satisfied. She wanted more of that “1:1 aspect of teaching” she had loved from her great aunt. 

“But as I moved through my career as an educator, I realized how much I loved the human, developmental aspect of education – working with young people to discover and reach their potential.”

In 2010 her professional development led her to Poly Prep where she would become a high school dean. Pleased with her status as a dean now, she regards her profession as “a dream job” still now after using the same words in a 2017 interview done by Polygon. “I get to use my mind in so many different ways in a day – no day is the same! Of course, there can be challenges, but everyone here is working for the same thing – what’s in the best interest of the student” she says, reflecting on love for her profession regardless of the hardships that came with along the way.   

When asked about, Eleanor Brown, graduating class of 2024 and member of Nestor’s cohort, only had pleasant things to say. “I go to her all the time, for whatever. She wants everyone to do well and she’ll push everyone to their highest extent” she says while smiling, recalling all the times she’s gone into her office for support. “I know that all the deans are great, but I am glad that I have her.” 

While Nestor’s dance career remains a mystery to many, she still carries remnants from her dancing days with her beyond her upright posture. Although growing up she was used to a tight schedule, reponsonsibility is a lesson she learned through dance. “I remember afternoons when I was just so exhausted, I didn’t want to go to dance class. And my mother would say, ‘Listen, you don’t have to go. But remember that you made a commitment to this; it is your responsibility.’…And you know what? Just standing at the barre, before the music even started, I’d feel so good that I made it.” 

Day after day Nestor sits in her office, waiting for the next person to walk through her doors and answering emails. A life she’s chased, from her dancing days to her present responsibilities as a dean. From her days growing up in suburban Massachusetts to now living in the big city of New York she has lead her life following the advice that “Regardless of the grade, quality of work, level of perfection – if you can look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and say you tried your best, that’s all you can ask of yourself.”