BLANKET — If Jessica Dudley hadn’t helped one of her karate students with a biology lesson in Denton — after being laid off from her job in an environmental lab — Dudley might never have become a public schoolteacher.

Dudley, a 14-year teaching veteran, is in her second year at Blanket High School, where she teaches science. Her class load consists of integrated physics and chemistry, biology, physics, anatomy, physiology and advanced animal science.

Dudley’s husband, George, is also a teacher in the Blanket school district. They are the parents of five.

Dudley, a Mabank native, explained the circuitous route that took her to a Blanket High School classroom. “I’ve always been a curious kid,” Dudley said. “My mother really enforced our love of curiosity. She really enabled us.”

With no plans to become a teacher, Dudley graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in biochemistry. “I wanted to get into genetics,” Dudley said.

Her first job after college was in an environmental lab in Addison, where she commuted from Denton. But Dudley got laid off from that job and took a job as a maid to pay bills.

Dudley also held a second degree black belt in karate and had become a karate instructor. “I was so despondent, and I was up at the (karate) studio, and  I was like, what am I going to do with my life?” Dudley said.

The answer came through one of her karate students. As Dudley helped the student study for a karate test, the student asked her “why aren’t you a teacher?”

“Well that’s a good idea … a good question,” Dudley thought to herself.

Dudley returned to school at UNT and earned a teaching certificate through post-baccalaureate certification. She began her teaching career in Birdsville, followed by stops in Cicso and Mullin before coming to Blanket.

“I just love it here. It’s great,” Dudley said. “I’ve got basically college level lab here. In all the schools I taught at before, I’ve never had a lab this cool. We can do so much with these kids.”

Dudley’s inspiration for her job: “Really it’s the kids,” Dudley said. “I love them.”