A school-wide assembly, a special guest, a surprised recipient of the Teacher of the Month award; the scene is quickly becoming a welcome Collinsville tradition.
Jennifer Keene, the Twin Echo Elementary School reading specialist, was the teacher who shook her head in surprise Friday after hearing her name called by special guest Rick Kincheloe, the sponsor of Edward Jones’ Unit 10 Teacher of the Month Award. The students gathered for the quarterly student recognition assembly greeted the announcement with a big round of applause for the December recipient.
On any given day, Keene can be found huddled on the carpet with students working on letter identification or reading silly poems with older students, focusing on decoding words, Twin Echo Principal Julie Haake said. Those are just a few of the many instructional methods Keene uses to keep the groups of struggling readers she works with motivated.
Always eager to help, Keene typically becomes an informal mentor to new teachers, Haake said.
“She takes them under her wing and often becomes their confidant and biggest cheerleader,” Haake said.
Several years ago, Keene began facilitating data collaboration days with teachers at the school. She leads the teachers in diagnosing individual student learning needs based on assessments, observations and work samples. This helped teachers focus on ways to help individual students and resulted in higher achievement scores. The model was so successful and well received by faculty and staff that it is being replicated in all elementary schools in the Collinsville School District, Haake said.
Keene’s influence goes beyond students and teachers. She collaborates with parents, updates them regularly on their child’s progress and genuinely creates a team approach for her students, Haake said.
When the Twin Echo PTA was in danger of disbanding this year because there were no volunteers to be officers, Keene stepped in and took over as president. She has now recruited more teachers and parent volunteers than the club has ever had, Haake said.
Whether tutoring students after school, volunteering with the PTA, mentoring other teachers, working with parents, teaching the students who adore her or leading an educational initiative that is now being expanded district wide, Keene does it all with a smile and a great attitude, Haake said.
“She is truly and amazing educator, mentor and leader,” Haake said.