Spotlight: Jennifer Albert (FL '18)February 28, 2019
Fifth-grade science and math teacher Jennifer Albert (FL ’18) leads her grade-level team and shares a special bond with her colleagues: “Our relationship motivates the whole team to work hard for each other and our students.” Jennifer won Florida’s 2018-19 Milken Educator Award at Emma Love Hardee Elementary in Fernandina Beach on November 29, 2018.
Milken Family Foundation: You’re known as a leader and mentor for beginning teachers in your district. What’s the importance of the teacher leader role?
Jennifer Albert: It is truly an honor to be thought of as a mentor teacher. I am not the kind of person who enjoys having the focus on me, so it has been kind of difficult when it comes to peer visits, district walk-throughs and videotaping. But I am still honored to know that my district views me as a mentor teacher. On the other hand, I love going into classrooms and providing teachers with feedback on their lessons and ways to improve their classroom environment.
Being a team leader also means being a great listener. I love that my team feels like they can come to me with anything that is on their minds. I am their sounding board and their shoulder to cry on if they need it. We have developed a special bond and a friendship, and I think our relationship also motivates the whole team to work hard for each other and our students.
MFF: Who are your role models as an educator?
Jennifer: Joy and Helen, my teacher mentors. I was only 20. They took me under their wings during my first few years, and I felt a sense of comfort with the two of them by my side. I tried to mimic who they were as educators and professionals. Helen still teaches at my school, so when I won the Milken Award I was able to thank her and tell her how much I appreciated what she and Joy did for me. Helen is not only a mentor but a lifelong friend.
MFF: What made you decide to teach?
Jennifer: I always knew I wanted to be an educator. When I was a little girl, I would line up my baby dolls and teach away. As a teenager, I started teaching dance (tap, jazz, ballet and clogging) to young girls, from three years old (that was challenging!) to middle school. I knew then that I loved helping children learn new things. Education just seemed to be in my blood.
MFF: What do you like about elementary students?
Jennifer: I love their natural curiosity. Fifth-graders still have a sweet innocence, but they are trying to gain their own sense of who they are and the person they want to become. I can joke, laugh and be silly with them without fearing unnecessary judgment or ridicule. I have taught fifth grade for 17 out of the 19 years I have been teaching.
MFF: You incorporate Kagan structures, including movements, motions and other mnemonic strategies, into your lessons. How does this help your students learn?
Jennifer: Kagan structures were designed to promote cooperation and communication, boost students' confidence and retain their interest in classroom interaction. After I try different structures in my classroom, my team and I try them out together. We discuss and rehearse one of these structures at our weekly grade level meetings—I refer to them as our “Kagan Quickies.” This has been very successful in increasing student engagement throughout our grade level, where our goal is 100% engagement for all students. I use these techniques on an ongoing basis.
MFF: How did you feel at your Milken Educator Award notification?
Jennifer: I was in total shock!! To be honest, I had never heard of the Award, so I just remember thinking: What in the world is happening?
MFF: How did your students respond to your Milken Award?
Jennifer: They were so excited for me. Many of them would ask me how I was going to spend the money, and a few of them asked if I was going to give them any!
MFF: How do you think you’ll use your $25,000 Award?
Jennifer: My husband and I are in the process of building a new home, and the money will be extremely helpful throughout this process. I am also hoping to plan a family vacation for my husband and two teenage children.
MFF: How do you define “success” for yourself, and for your students?
Jennifer: Success is learning and growing, not only academically but as a person. I want my students to leave my classroom feeling that they learned needed skills but also learned how to be a good person. I always tell my students that they are “my kids” and they know I have high expectations for them. I know I must be doing something right because many of them come back and visit me as they go through middle and high school, and tell me how much they miss me. And that to me, is the true meaning of being a successful teacher.
Don’t miss any new articles and updates from Milken Educator Awards: