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Jess is a class act
Jess Hunter. Picture: Ben Crabtree/The West Australian

J *ess Hunter *is proving there's more to beauty pageant contestants than just their looks. As well as being a Miss Universe WA Top 24 contender, Hunter, 23, is in her first year teaching full-time at a public primary school in the eastern suburbs. "A lot of people just think we're a bunch of airheads, and a lot of girls have achieved so much," she told _Access All Areas _. "I want to stress that I still want to be taken seriously. I don't want to be judged by just my exterior."

The year 5/6 teacher, who was picked to progress to this Saturday's much-anticipated State final during the first round of heats at bamBOO at Luxe Bar on February 18, is using her time in the competition to raise awareness about education.

"School is about more than learning," she said. "It's sometimes a safe environment to come every day, so I try and set that up in my classroom. The best thing with Miss Universe is that I'm getting (my students) involved with active citizenship as well, and getting them to look outside themselves.

"I did a little bit of modelling during high school and the opportunity came where they asked me to go over to Tokyo to work for three months and I deferred my studies for one year."

"When it came time to go back to uni, the contracts were still coming in but I just wanted it so much that I went to uni and stayed there for the four years. I always wanted to be a teacher and I think it's because I have really strong memories of my teachers at school. They were all so caring and so nice, it kind of inspired me."

She is still signed to Scene models and said modelling had made her a better teacher. "I gained so much confidence between school and uni. I can stand in front of a class of 28 kids with no problem now."

HOLLY RICHARDS