Red Deer teacher Shari Jensen was among 20 recipients of the 2013 Excellence in Teaching Awards at an education celebration in Edmonton on Saturday.
Winners were chosen from among 129 semi-finalists from across the province.
Award nominees are chosen for their leadership, creativity, innovation, collaborative work with colleagues, and positive learning environments they create.
Jensen, a math teacher at Hunting Hills High School, said having a very good math teacher when she was in Grade 12 put her on her chosen career path.
“It just clicked for me and I thought that’s what I’d like to do for other people,” said Jensen, 41.
She said she tries to make math fun, engage students in an easy-going environment, and downplay the difficulty.
“There’s a lot of kids that just come in and say, ‘I’m bad at math.’ No you’re not. You can do it. Everybody can do it.”
And Jensen said that includes girls bucking the math-gender stereotype.
“Maybe I’m just not old enough to know how it was 40 years ago. Our girls are strong. They’re doing very well. I always have very strong girls and very strong boys.”
Advances in technology and tools in class provide more ways to show how math works. The more ways there are, the better chance of students understanding, she said.
“When I started we were using white boards. Now we’ve evolved into SMART Boards. Any three dimensional shape, or any movement of an object, or anything that’s happening, I can show them what’s happening. They can get a good picture of what’s going on, better then they used to.”
Jensen, who taught math and science at Lacombe Junior High School before joining Hunting Hills in 2000, said she has seen students excel in math even after a difficult start.
“I have a kid right now in Math 31 who started out in Math 9. He came in and was struggling in math and he fought his way all the way through it and is now sitting in calculus. He just bought in and worked hard and made it.”
Jensen spends lunch hours in her classroom so students know they can get extra help if needed.
She said Hunting Hills’ nine math teachers make an incredible team.
Each and everyone of them are worthy of an award.
“We help each other. We share our materials. We share ideas and we have technology at our disposal. And great kids.”
Jensen was nominated by Hunting Hills administration.
Each award recipient receives up to $4,000 for professional development.
She was among 11 teachers or principals who were semi-finalists from Central Alberta schools.
Excellence in Teaching Awards is administered by Alberta Education with the support of Alberta School Boards Association, Alberta School Councils’ Association, Alberta Teachers’ Association, Association of Alberta Deans of Education, College of Alberta School Superintendents, Council on Alberta Teaching Standards and the Edmonton Journal.