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Cleveland Elementary's Joy Jenkins honored as Teacher of the Year

By Maggie Blackwell
mblackwell@salisburypost.com
Joy Jenkins was named Rowan-Salisbury Teacher of the Year on Friday at a breakfast sponsored by the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.
Jenkins, a third-grade teacher at Cleveland Elementary School, has taught for the local system for five years. Before that, she taught private school in Cabarrus County. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a master’s degree in elementary education from Iona College of New Rochelle in New York.
Enthusiasm and creativity are Jenkins’ hallmarks. She feels strongly that learning must appeal to all types of learners, so she includes movement, sound, writing, even dance into the students’ day. She often writes jingles to help them remember basic facts:
“Hey, you, hey you,
I got you quad,
I got you quad,
Four sides, Four sides,
Four angles, four angles–
Quadrilateral!”
Every day, students recite the same thing as they enter her room:
“I am smart / I am ready / My mind is clear / My ears are on / I can learn anything.”
Jenkins had prepared remarks at the direction of April Williamson, the 2008 teacher of the year. Williamson told Jenkins she was advising all the runners-up to have something ready in case they won. Jenkins turned to all the other finalists and asked, “Did you prepare remarks, too?”
They all shook their heads.
Jenkins likened teaching to gardening, saying teachers have to be firmly planted to succeed. They must not just grow, but bloom, and they must be flexible to help children reach their dreams. She joked that her inspiration for the analogy came from a Bounty paper towel printed with inspirational quotations.
She later said she sets a goal for each child she teaches. Some goals are academic, and some are social. Through the year, she works to help each child achieve that goal. She declined to cite one specific child she has affected, saying that to do so would minimize the importance of all her other students.
This is not the first honor for Jenkins, who was named a 21st Century teacher last year. As a reward, her classroom received advanced technological tools to help children learn.
Phil Hardin, executive director of technology for the school system, said he was “amazed” at her use of the technology over the year. He said he and Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom were “in awe” of her “totally natural” use of technology.
This year’s selection committee included Mary Ponds, Janice Raper, Jean Kennedy, Bonita Bloodworth, Louise Wooten, Amanda Bosch and Dr. Martha West.
Ponds, a 40-plus year educator, said, “I look to feel their passion in teaching. If it’s not in your heart, it’s not there.”
Kennedy, who serves on the School Board, is also a 40-year educator. She has served as a Teacher of the Year judge for several years. Kennedy said she looks for authenticity. “I must feel the individual rise from the page,” adding, “Joy’s overall persona was the epitome of the individual I would want to teach my child.”
Jenkins said her teaching philosophy is, “A day without learning is a day without living. It’s necessary to life.”
Jenkins was awarded $1,000 from the Chamber of Commerce for classroom items. In addition, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education gave her a laptop computer and printer. She will attend the five-day seminar of her choice at NCCAT, thanks to the Phillip J. Kirk Honored Educator Scholarship. Kirk, in presenting the scholarship, remarked, “I think we have a North Carolina Teacher of the Year here.”
Teacher of the Year runner-up is Merenda Benge of Morgan Elementary. Benge’s philosophy is to make each child feel welcome, respected, and valued, and he will be eager to learn.
Other finalists are:
– April Weaver, Millbridge Elementary;
– Ernest Ritchie, East Rowan High School;
– Dwayne Robertson, Granite Quarry Elementary ;
– Sidney Allen, Salisbury High ;
– Amy Brooks, South Rowan High School.

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