Reading and computer games are two of the ways Jennifer Howard teaches at Johnson Elementary, but building relationships is where she puts her focus.
“I try to really pay attention, that’s a lot of it, pay attention to who is having a good day, who’s having a bad day, get to know them, spend time with them, explains Jennifer Howard, the Valley’s Top Teacher who has been teaching in Athens for 21 years. “That helps you know who needs a little extra help today, or who needs an extra hug today, or who is not feeling so hot.”
Mrs. Howard tells her first graders that they are her kids and they will forever be her kids, and they know that she loves them.
“Well, when we make mistakes she helps us,” says Melody Harvey, a first grader.
“When we get hurt she helps us feel better and when we need help reading, she helps us read,” explains first grader, Bennett Bailes.
She even has students who used to not like going to school, but now want to go because of how Mrs. Howard cares for them and their needs.
“There are kids, where it’s not that much fun for them. So you need to reach out and try to figure out why. What is so bad? Let me show you what it can be.”
She is there for them through the hard times and the good times.
“We like make funny questions to her, she laughs,” smiles Melody Harvey.
One of the best days in her class is National Pirate Day.
“She let’s us dress up for Pirate Day,” says Bennett Bailes.
“It started out just us dressing up, and then the parents were like hey, can I bring these special snacks, and then everyone starting getting on Pinterest and finding all these cool things to come up with and then we found all these different games,” says Mrs. Howard of the annual celebration.
She wants them to learn while feeling safe and loved.
“I want them to feel encouraged to work towards their goal, work towards their dream, whatever it is,” Mrs. Howard explains. “To not feel like no one believes in them, because you know, I do, and I am pushing them as hard as I can because I want to see them all grow.”
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