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December 16, 2000

'I made a tremendous error in judgment'

Teacher-student affair: Edmonton woman considers liaison a happy time

Gordon Kent
The Edmonton Journal
The National Post

Rick Macwilliam, The Edmonton Journal
Jocelyn Jaster

EDMONTON - Former elementary school teacher Jocelyn Jaster says her affair with a high school student was a loving relationship that happened at the wrong time.

Like her teenage lover, Ms. Jaster says she is struggling to put her life back together now that a jury has found her not guilty of sexual exploitation.

"I made a tremendous error in judgment, the effects of which will stay with me for the rest of my life," she said yesterday in her first extensive interview about the case. "At the time it was a very happy, caring relationship, that maybe in different circumstances, in a different time, could have turned out differently."

Ms. Jaster was a 25-year-old elementary teacher at a small rural school in northeastern Alberta in the spring of 1998 when she gave the 17-year-old youth a note asking him to go out with her.

He attended a senior grade at the school where she taught.

Over the summer, they had a passionate romance that began to crumble in the fall after she told him she was pregnant with his baby.

The principal found out and she went on an unpaid leave of absence. She never returned, despite their plans to live together and raise their child.

She later had a miscarriage. Her lover flew out to comfort her at her Vancouver home, but within a month the affair was over. "We said our goodbyes, because we knew we had to let go ... the circumstances were wrong."

Ms. Jaster, who was going through a divorce at the time, said she was unhappy and opened herself up to the teenager.

Despite his denial of any interest in Ms. Jaster before they got together, she said he made his feelings clear.

Still, she is at a loss to explain exactly what happened. "I think that a lot of people can look back at times in their lives and shake their heads and wonder what they could be thinking. It was a mistake, and a mistake that cost me everything from the life that I had built."

The teenager, now 19, testified during Ms. Jaster's two-day trial this week in St. Paul, Alta., that he was in shock throughout the affair and constantly wanted to end it.

After talking to a psychologist, he says he now feels he was victimized.

He is suing Ms. Jaster, the school board and his former principal for $150,000.

But Ms. Jaster considers their liaison to have been a happy time, saying she does not have any bitterness or resentment toward her former lover. "I guess I'm able to look back and remember in my heart ... that won't change."

Despite being acquitted of the criminal charge, Ms. Jaster has paid a price for her indiscretion.

Last year, she lost her certificate to teach, and an Alberta Teachers' Association committee condemned her actions as "despicable."She said she was not at the disciplinary hearing because she was living in British Columbia and her parents did not pass on to her notices of the hearing.

At the time, she was estranged from her family, who did not approve of what had happened.

The situation was far worse than a regular love affair gone bad, she said.

"The shame that goes with everyone talking about a relationship and the isolation that I put myself through, my own self-punishment on a daily basis ... that destroys your self-esteem and self-confidence."

Although Ms. Jaster has reconciled with most of her relatives, her relationship with her siblings has still not healed.

But her life has started to improve, she says. She is taking a Web design course at the University of Alberta.

While she is not dating anyone, she has support, feels better about herself and is looking toward the future.

"It's been a long, long 2 1/2 years. I would say that my moving back to Edmonton was the first step in starting to get over it. I still have a long ways to go."

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