Meet Jill Molli ’93, Education

Jill Molli ’93

Major: Elementary Education

Career: Conscious Discipline Master Instructor and former teacher and guidance counselor

I was exposed to so many different education experiences while at William Woods that when I began my career I was prepared for any position that was available.


Connections and Friendships at The Woods

I grew up on the Mississippi River in the tiny little town of Louisiana, Missouri. My graduating class had about 70 kids, so I wanted a college that was smaller. My older sister (Susan Werbach Lowry ’91) went to William Woods and raved about it. After visiting the school, meeting my sister’s friends, and getting a feel for the campus, I liked it too.

Molli (right) with her sister, Susan Werbach Lowry ’91


At that point, it was still all women and that was of course very appealing to my mom and dad. One of my favorite memories is of the guy that sat in the white trailer on Saturday nights, making sure the campus was safe and checking in everyone who came onto campus. He was the sweetest man and felt like everyone’s dad.

I joined the Chi Omega sorority, which gave me some valuable leadership experiences and allowed me to make career connections. In my career, I have met other women who were Chi Omega’s from different schools and we had an instant connection because of our sisterhood.

Chi Omega Bid Day at William Woods in 1990

The friends that I made within the first six weeks of school have been my friends for over 25 years. Four of us even take a yearly trip together, to this day. What’s so nice about those friends is that they knew you before you were anything. College friends keep your feet on the ground and keep you humble. Staying connected to them has been a key factor for me.

Molli with her William Woods friends on their annual vacation


Education at William Woods

My mom was a middle school and high school home economics teacher and my aunts were elementary teachers. When it came time to start thinking about majors and careers, education felt right.

The education professors at William Woods are incredible. They take students under their wings and mentor them.

Dr. Betsy Tutt was one of the teachers who was really willing to take me under her wing. She worked on side projects with me, which is probably why I shifted my career from being an elementary teacher to working on a broader scale with educators. We even co-authored an article in the Missouri English Bulletin in the Fall of 1993. The article was entitled “Jill’s Story”. It was a huge honor that she had asked me to partner.

Professor Tutt at the 2017 graduate commencement ceremony.

Dr. Tutt’s classes were also some of the most memorable. They were creative and she didn’t just teach from the book. She pushed her students academically and encouraged us to think outside the box.


Teaching Opportunities as an Education Major

I was exposed to so many different education experiences while at William Woods that when I began my career I was prepared for any position that was available.

One of the things I loved about the Education program is that it didn’t pigeonhole me into only being an elementary teacher. It gave me opportunities to try different types of education.

William Woods was (and still is) very connected with Fulton Public Schools (FPS).

FPS asked me to run the before and after school program at Bush Elementary School. I went there each morning, worked with kids from 6 a.m. – 8 a.m. and then went back from 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. It was a real opportunity to get my feet wet and it is an experience that I still draw from in my career today.

Another Education professor, Dr. Mason, connected me to a summer gifted camp that was hosted at the college for middle school students. I was a camp counselor and had the opportunity to develop and teach a class to gifted kids, thus furthering my exposure to different fields of education.

For my senior year, I knew that I wanted to try something in a different district so that I would have even more job experience. I was able to get a student teaching job nearby in Mexico, Missouri. I still didn’t know if I wanted to work with younger or older students and didn’t want to be bound to one specific grade. The professors let me split my student teaching (which was rare) so that I experienced both. During one semester, I student taught in first grade for six weeks and fifth for the next six weeks.

When I graduated from William Woods, I had a very strong foundation and a broad background: gifted programs, SPED, elementary, before and after school, etc. This expansive and flexible education made me very attractive to employers in the very beginning. I can work with churches, schools, and a variety of people because of all my experiences at William Woods.


Grade-Less Teaching

Before I even finished my student teaching, the Mexico School District offered me a job. I graduated a semester early and they had a mid-year SPED opening. So, my first job out of college was as a behavior disorder teacher.

At that point, I accepted that I simply didn’t have a grade. I had struggled over it, but I enjoyed working with different types of kids. In my SPED role, I didn’t see the children as good or bad. I just knew that some of them were missing skills and didn’t know what to do. Someone had to teach them.

I then experimented by teaching third grade. I knew that if I stayed in behavior disorder, regular teachers might not listen to what I had to say because I had only worked with one or two kids at a time. I needed the classroom experience if I wanted to grow.

After that first year, I received an Outstanding First Year Teacher award from the State of Missouri. I think this honor really had to do with all of the varied experiences I collected.


Helping Kids and Parents

In addition to teaching third grade, I went back to school for my masters of education in counseling. I felt like every teacher was a counselor (whether with students, parents, or other teachers) and wanted to be prepared.

While getting that degree and after only teaching for two years, the principal came to me and said that the school’s guidance counselor had left and she needed me to fill the role. As the guidance counselor, I helped teachers with difficult kids and was constantly on the search for different programs and tools. But they all seemed to be about tricking and bribing kids. In my heart, I knew they needed different skills.

A small women’s prison opened up near my school and we suddenly had an influx of students whose families had moved to the area to be near the women. These kids were really angry because they missed their moms, so I started doing guidance groups for them. In a small town, word travels fast. The prison heard that I was offering these guidance groups and asked if I would be willing to teach parenting classes in the prison. For four years, I taught school during the day and went to the prison during the evenings and weekends.

That was a pivotal time in my life because my own children were about six months and two and a half years old. And it was when my real passion was awakened. I had to help people. Not only kids, but also adults who are struggling.


A Conscious Discipline Disciple

While I was working at the prison, I ran into Conscious Discipline, a trauma-informed social-emotional learning and classroom management program. It is about understanding the Conscious Discipline Brain State Model, which recognized three basic brain/body/mind states likely to produce certain behaviors. Intentional, state-specific responses enable access to advanced skills.

Conscious Discipline has seven powers that create a shift in the way adults see conflict so we can maintain composure and consciously respond to difficult situations. Adults’ ability to self-regulate is the precursor to teaching children social-emotional skills. A school family is built, which increases connections between adults and children at all levels, ensuring optimal development and learning for all. Once this healthy soil is creating through the school family, the seven skills transform everyday discipline issues into teachable moments, equipping children with the social-emotional and communication skills needed to manage themselves, resolve conflict and develop healthy behavior.

Molli working with children

We work with teachers to take the competitiveness out of the classroom and transform it into a helpful community environment. It’s about recognizing that the child isn’t intentionally being hurtful and modeling the state we want them to be in. When they feel safe and connected, kids don’t want to hit or fight.

Dr. Bailey, the creator of the program, came to my area in 2000 and did a two-day training. I told her about my work with the prison and she was really intrigued. She invited me to attend a week-long Conscious Discipline training in Florida. When I returned to Eugene Field Elementary School in Mexico, Mo., I began implementation of Conscious Discipline; its techniques for both adults and children were powerful and saw drastic success.

Soon after, I attended a four-day Conscious Discipline institute that Dr. Bailey was running. At that event, her staff found me in the lobby, told me that Dr. Bailey was suddenly ill and asked if I could run the morning training program. I was new to the program, but I stepped up. Dr. Bailey came up to me the next day and said she had heard that I did an amazing job and asked if I would be an associate. She wanted me to train others. At my first event, I spoke to a group of 1,200 teachers in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The rest is history.

Molli with the Conscious Disciple “Feeling Buddies”

I have been working with Conscious Discipline for the last sixteen years in the United States and internationally. When I first started, I would go to one classroom at a time where there was an interested teacher. Then entire schools and districts started getting curious. I even worked with a school district in the Houston area that had over 58,000 students.

My focus is now on leading big projects for the company, including company, city, state, and country-wide. I did some work with Shelter Insurance’s staff on responding to hostile phone calls in a healthy way. Springfield, Missouri received a million dollar grant to implement Conscious Discipline, so I am helping them incorporate it from Head Start to elementary schools to universities. Alabama is also rolling out these programs across the state and we’re training over a thousand teachers. For about five years, I even worked with the entire country of Aruba on implementing Conscious Discipline.

Inspiring and Igniting Teachers

In the beginning of my career, the focus was primarily on Conscious Discipline Awareness, exposing educators to the possibility of a different way of thinking about discipline. Moving forward, we have shifted to implementation of Conscious Discipline with fidelity. This has shifted the focus from offering professional development only to building relationships with districts and coaching them through the process of implementation.

Going forward, I see myself really working on projects that have a mental health connection. Mental health is a big passion of mine. I love to inspire and ignite teachers. Teachers now have high blood pressure and the burnout rate is so high because children are coming to school with many more emotional struggles.

Dr. Bailey is focused on helping shift the nation into a healthier approach to social and emotional learning by meeting with politicians in Washington DC. I recently had the opportunity to travel to D.C. also and talked to politicians about struggles in the classroom and the success that schools who implement Conscious Discipline have had at decreasing those struggles. It seems the folks in Washington DC are ready and open to a healthier approach in the schools. It’s been an interesting road and watch the implementation of Conscious Discipline expand across the world.

Molli with Laura Bush, former first lady of the United States


Looking Back at The Woods

William Woods really helped with the balance of acquiring knowledge, while still allowing me to make life-long friends. During my time at William Woods, I really enjoyed being a student ambassador and sharing with others how great The Woods was. I made amazing friends, got a great education, and was able to obtain the career I am in because of William Woods.