Amanda Jansen grew up with her head buried in books, so it made sense that she taught seventh- and eighth-grade literature at Fisher Junior Senior High for the last 18 years.
When the school began the year with a position for a science teacher unfilled, though, the Teutopolis graduate made the unselfish decision to delve into new territory and take the job.
“Mrs. Jansen, being the incredible team player that she is, offered to make the move from junior high literature,” Principal Jon Kelly said. “Great teams require selfless members, and Mrs. Jansen is the definition of selfless.”
I find my work important because … junior high is a notable time in life. It’s important that students at this age are learning to think for themselves and have lessons — not only from a textbook — that they can use no matter where they decide to go in life. Additionally, kids have access to so much of the world now. I feel it is important to help them learn to read critically, interact with others positively and so much more.
I became a teacher because … I believe strongly in education and love learning. One of the best ways to learn is to teach. Also, being a teacher has been my goal since at least second grade. For Christmas that year, I asked for a desk and a globe so I could pretend to be a teacher. After becoming a teacher, I continue to choose teaching because this is a career where everyday is both challenging and rewarding, no two days are the same, and I work with a team of people who are supportive and forward thinking.
My favorite and most unique lesson that I teach is … In the past, the literature units I looked forward to teaching were my poetry unit in seventh grade and the Edgar Allan Poe unit in eighth grade. Stories like “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Black Cat” really caught the attention of students and sparked great class discussions. In recent years, the students made their own graphic novel adaptations of “The Raven” to conclude the unit. Now that I‘ve moved to teach science, I am reserving judgement on a favorite lesson until I‘ve taught a few more and am looking forward to labs and activities that go along with topics in the class.
My most fulfilling moments on the job are when … I feel like my colleagues and I are in a unique position at a small school in that we teach every student for two years. The growth that we see in students from the first day of seventh grade through their promotion to high school is astonishing. It is most fulfilling to see students grow as people and hear about their success after they leave junior high.
Something else I’m passionate about is … Outside of teaching, I love spending time with my family. My husband and I have four kids who are each involved in various activities. We all enjoy traveling and visiting with our extended families.
My favorite teacher and subject to study in school was … I‘m not really one to pick favorites for anything, so it’s hard to choose one particular teacher or subject to study. Growing up, I was an avid reader. My mom once grounded me from reading because I was staying up too late at night to finish a book series. At the same time, in grade school I didn’t really like math and science but then took most of the math and science classes in high school and enjoyed them.
I also remember when I was in fifth and sixth grades at Bishop Creek Grade School, and Mrs. Rhodes was our teacher. She would read aloud to the class every day after lunch and created units of study that focused on one topic but connected with many subjects. She really cared about each of her students and made class interesting and fun.
I engage students during this strange time by … I try to engage students by letting them have choices in the classroom and being open about trying new things myself. If I find a new lesson, project, website, learning tool, etc., we try it out! Then, I ask for feedback about how it went, what was best, and what could be changed or improved. Students are usually more engaged when they feel like their voices are heard.
If I weren’t a teacher, I would be … It would make for better press if I could answer something like astronaut or world travel blogger, however I really haven’t looked into anything other than education. There are so many intriguing careers out there, but being a teacher is the one for me.
— Anthony Zilis