In a brightly lit office in Building V, there is one desk that stands out significantly. The clutter of textbooks, the scattered papers, and the multiple framed photographs aren’t what makes this desk pop out though. This significant desk has a computer with a rotating screensaver of a professional looking motorcyclist, zooming sideways on a track field.
“How did you guys know about this? Do you guys just keep files on everybody?” the tattooed owner of the desk asks.
By “this,” Jessica Valentine, the Pasadena City College math professor of seven years, means her hobby of motorcycle racing.
Valentine rides a Honda CBR600RR that can reach speeds up to more than 145 mph. She has already received professional lessons in motorcycle racing from the Yamaha Champions Riding School and even raced in the WERA Motorcycle Roadracing West finale in Las Vegas.
Valentine’s journey to motorcycle racing hasn’t always been a constant, smooth ride. She rode dirt bikes when she was younger, but she eventually stopped when her time and energy became consumed with marriage, her children, and her professional career. Now that her children are all grown up and she has found more stability, she has been able to find time again for the hobby and the thrill she constantly craved. But that’s not to say that splitting her time between her passion and responsibilities is not a constant juggling act.
“It’s a lot, but how do you balance anything?” she asks. “You have to be sensitive and sacrifice… I sometimes have to give up racing for my family or to grade papers. It’s a big part of my life, but it’s not my career.”
Even with so much on her plate, it seems like Valentine strives to go above and beyond. Although she spends up to eight days a month for her racing, according to her students and colleague, Professor Silvia Talaoc, she always returns graded tests and work on time, is always enthusiastic during class, and is never late.
“The Math 150 instructors work very closely throughout the semester; each are given tasks to complete in order to help share the load,” Talaoc said in an e-mail. “Jessica was consistently the first instructor to turn in her contributions to the group during the Spring semester.”
For someone who has a hobby that requires so much courage, Valentine is surprisingly shy when her students want to give their own insight and opinions on her hobby. She rushes out the room before she can witness the impressed nods and surprised looks when they are informed of her motorcycle racing.
“She mentioned once that she will sometimes ride her motorcycle to class when she is running late,” says student Danielle Torres. “It’s very cool.”
“And also, compared to other professors, you can tell she’s more alive, active, and present.” student Brennan Yu says. “She’s badass.”