Enjoy our Teacher of the Year Profile series each Thursday in the Statesboro Herald February 23 - June 1. Jennifer Cooper is Brooklet Elementary School's teacher of the year. This is her story:
My name is Jennifer A. Cooper. I am a reading and math teacher at Brooklet Elementary School for children in kindergarten - second grade. I’ve been teaching for 24 years, 10 years in Alabama, and 14 years in Georgia, with Bulloch County Schools. I received my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Jacksonville State University.
Two major factors influenced me in the decision to become a teacher. When I was in third grade, my teacher had us write a paper about our future careers. After pondering the assignment, I felt I was created to be a teacher. From that moment I became passionate about pursuing a future as an educator. Another influencing factor was that I had a parent in the military, so moving often, and being the new kid at school, was a way of life for me. There were a few teachers during those years who took the time to notice me and make me feel special. I never forgot them or the way they made me feel.
My philosophy of teaching is deeply rooted in my faith. I fully know I was called into teaching, and have been given the talents to make a difference in this profession. Throughout my 24 years in education, I have anchored my various approaches to teaching around one important idea. I believe it is essential to begin by making students feel accepted, loved, and important. Like the anonymous quote says, “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In our overly-scheduled, easily-agitated, and stressed-out world, kind words seem to have often become a forgotten part of daily communication.
Teachers can sometimes work with students who have broken hearts and crushed spirits, which can make focusing on academic standards difficult. It takes very little effort to use words of affirmation and a gentle tone of voice to make students feel loved, welcomed, and unguarded. Dale Carnegie once said, “Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.” I believe the call of a teacher is to touch the soul as well as teach the mind.