In Jenna Dean’s fourth grade classroom, students take charge of their learning. Dean, who teaches math and science at Helena Park Elementary in Nederland, Texas, uses research-based practices to tap into each student’s strengths and build capacity in areas of challenge. Visitors to Dean’s classroom see students using manipulatives, researching on laptops and working on projects as Dean consults with small groups or coaches students individually. She continually searches for innovative ways to bring content to life and incorporates hands-on STEM activities into lessons. Students learn about heat and energy transfer making s’mores using pizza boxes, aluminum foil and sunlight, and they explore concepts like area and perimeter as they design their “dream homes.” Dean extends students’ discovery- and inquiry-based learning opportunities off-campus, planning field trips to NASA, a local medical facility to learn about germs, radiation and ultrasound, and the local Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum, which commemorates the discovery of oil in 1901 in nearby Beaumont. Dean sparks a love of learning and holds high expectations, reminding her students that they can do hard things. And they do – in 2022, even after pandemic learning interruptions, 98% of the 4th grade math students passed the state’s STAAR assessments for math, with 50% of them reaching mastery.
Dean serves as grade-level chair and has stepped in for Helena Park’s principal during absences and over the summer. She helps develop the master schedule, places students in appropriate interventions, and leads the school’s data efforts, including growth tracking, student conferences, setting goals and organizing celebrations for meeting growth targets. Dean has served on numerous committees, including the district’s academics committee, where she helped develop guidelines, train colleagues and implement new virtual learning technology as buildings reopened in fall 2020. She has led professional development about educational technology and embracing a growth mindset, worked with the Texas Education Agency to review new questions for the grade four math STAAR, and is planning for the alignment and enrichment of Helena Park’s math and science curriculum as the school prepares to add fifth graders in 2023-24. Dean mentors new teachers and education students from nearby Lamar University, her alma mater. Many of her mentees have gone on to successful careers in education, with several joining Nederland ISD straight out of school.
Dean concentrates on meeting the needs of the whole child, focusing on students’ social and emotional growth alongside academics. She advocated for the school to adopt Class Tag for parent communication because it allows for easy messaging in multiple languages, especially Spanish and Vietnamese. Dean is a hometown hero: She is a former Helena Park Elementary student and Nederland ISD graduate, teaches dance at a local studio and is active in her church community.
Dean is a graduate of Lamar University, earning a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies in 2015 and a master’s in educational administration in 2020.
Press release: Nederland Teacher Makes History as First in District to Receive $25,000 Milken Educator Award
"I love children. I love molding their minds and growing my students to reach their full potential. When I see my students achieve, it..." (read more)
2020 M.Ed., Educational Administration, Lamar University
2015 B.S., Interdisciplinary Studies, Lamar University