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Column: Feeling like a kid on his first day of school

Having a new job can be exciting, yet nerve-wracking at the same time.

As I took a deep breath and walked through the front glass doors at Sauk Valley Media this week, a bunch of questions ran through my head.

What kind of impression will I make? Will my editors like my work? What will my new bosses and co-workers think of me?

Monday was my first day working at Sauk Valley Media here in Sterling. For the first time in about 5 years, I am the new person in a newsroom. It’s also the first time in almost 5 years that I again am an Illinois resident.

In my new position, I will cover education in Sterling, Rock Falls, Dixon and surrounding areas. In addition to covering school board meetings, I’ll be looking for stories on dropout rates, enrollment, trends in the classrooms, and positive accomplishments from students, among other things.

In addition to writing about education, I will be on the business beat, reporting stories on businesses opening and closing in the area, as well as business trends.

My wife, Kate, our two cats, and I have come to town after spending roughly the past 5 years in Burlington, Iowa, which is in the southeast corner of the state.

There, I was the education and health reporter at The Hawk Eye newspaper. Some of the stories I covered included dropout rates, the opening of two middle schools, and a community college basketball team forfeiting its season, as well as various stories on the Affordable Care Act.

If you count my time as a student reporter at Northern Illinois University, I’ve been a news reporter for about 8 years.

It took a lot for me to get to this point. After I graduated from NIU in 2007, I spent about a year freelancing as I frantically looked for a full-time job. Eventually, I got a job at The Daily Journal, which is in Kankakee. While at The Daily Journal, I covered everything from bank robberies to the 2008 presidential election. Because the Chicago Bears hold summer training camp in Bourbonnais, which is right next to Kankakee, I had the exciting opportunity to cover the Bears for a short time.

Then, without warning, The Daily Journal laid me off. Darn budget cuts.

Once again, I had to dust off my résumé and start looking for work. Things got so bad, I had to pick up a job stocking shelves overnights at Walmart.

Finally, I applied for an open reporting position at The Hawk Eye in 2009. Although I was reluctant to cover education, I grew to like the beat.

I really like speaking to students and watching their faces light up when I speak to them. I enjoy writing stories about teachers or staff members, then walking in their home or classroom and seeing my story framed on their wall. I really enjoy meeting new people and interacting with the students.

At the same time, I have no problem writing stories that might become controversial or ones that make people uncomfortable.

Another reason that my wife and I moved to Sterling is that it puts us about 45 minutes from her hometown of DeKalb. It also puts me closer to Bloomington, which is my hometown. We also have friends and family sprinkled throughout Chicagoland, and we don’t have to travel 4 hours from Burlington to see them.

My wife is in Burlington now, working as an eligibility specialist – she helps people qualify for Medicare. She will move to Sterling in the coming weeks.

So, although Sterling is new to both of us, we are excited to follow our new journey, no matter how nerve-wracking it may be.

Jermaine can be reached at (815) 625-3600, ext. 5525 or at You can also follow Jermaine on Twitter @JPigee84.

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