Jennifer graduated from Samford University in 2007 and has been teaching at Green Valley Elementary School since. She has taught second grade, first grade and kindergarten. Jennifer has also been a foster mom for the past 10 years, and she has fostered dozens of children for months or years at a time before they are able to return to their biological families. As someone who loves children, it’s easy to see how she was named the 2023 Finley Character Award recipient as a faculty member. Here, she recounts her experience winning the award and why she loves being a teacher. 

In your 16 years of teaching, what has been the most rewarding aspect of your profession? 

I love building relationships with my students and their families. I think it is important to get to know each student as a person–their personalities, goals, fears, what they enjoy doing and learning and their backgrounds. I love having daily conversations about their pets, their favorite family activities, the toys they play with at home, something they worry about, what they are curious about and what they love. I am always honored when I am invited to their birthday parties, baptisms, baseball and soccer games, dance recitals and other events outside of school. In fact, I continue to attend those events for my students years after they are out of my classroom! I love watching them grow up. 

What was your reaction to winning the 2023 Finley Character Award as a faculty member? 

I have been a part of the Hoover City Schools family for so long that I have seen and celebrated many students and faculty members being honored by this award. To be chosen as this year’s recipient was a surprise and honor. I know there are so many faculty members who go above and beyond in many ways. 

What is the best part about being both an educator and an educator specifically at Green Valley Elementary School? 

I completed my student teaching internship at Green Valley when I was a student at Samford University. I was hired for the following year during my student teaching and have been at the school ever since! I have built friendships with former and current teachers and staff, and I have gained so much from my coworkers both on a personal and professional level. We have fun, we support each other, we learn from each other and we have been with each other through so many of life and school’s ups and downs.  

What is your goal for each of your students to accomplish by the end of each school year? 

There are so many academic goals for kindergarteners, but my number one focus is for my students to learn to work in a community. I want them to grow socially and emotionally, while building relationships with others. We celebrate each other’s successes, learn to work through differences, problem solve together and most of all, have fun together! 

What advice do you have for other teachers entering the profession? 

You are making a difference in children’s lives! Fifty years from now, they will still remember you and your classroom. Some days will be hard, some will be chaotic, but a lot of days will be rewarding. Every day you are making a difference!