Lincoln High School ninth-grade English teacher Sydney Jensen has been named 2019 Nebraska Teacher of the Year.
Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt presented the award to Jensen during a surprise ceremony Thursday at Lincoln High during her eighth-period class. Members of the State Board of Education, Lincoln High Principal Mark Larson, Jensen's husband and LPS officials also were on hand. Her students erupted into applause as Blomstedt and the others entered the room and told her the big news.
"It's really humbling and exciting," Jensen said. "And I think the best part is that the kids that I love so much are excited...it's so reaffirming."
"We're pleased and honored that she is a teacher in Nebraska - and a great teacher at that," Blomstedt said. "She's a model for education all across the state of Nebraska and really across the country."
Larson stressed to the students how lucky they are to have Jensen as a teacher.
"We talk a lot here at Lincoln High about being engaged and what an engaged classroom looks like. An engaged classroom isn't always quiet. An engaged classroom is fun. You guys should know that doesn't necessarily happen in every classroom," he said. "It happens because she makes it happen. She puts in a ton of time, a ton effort and a ton of energy into planning her lessons and helping you learn."
Jensen, a native of Eatonton, Ga., credited her grandparents - both public school teachers - as the inspiration for her decision to become an educator. She also credited her own experience attending public schools.
"I'm a product of public education. I knew I wanted to be a public school teacher because I had so many great teachers who helped me," Jensen said.
This is the second time in three years that a teacher from Lincoln High has been honored with the state’s teacher of the year award. Math teacher Amber Vlasnik was named 2017 teacher of the year. She nominated Jensen for the award this year and also was on hand for the surprise announcement on Thursday.
A panel of Nebraska educators selected Jensen for the award, which recognizes the contributions of classroom teachers who are exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled, and who have the ability to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn.
Jensen taught English for one year at Dawes Middle School before moving to Lincoln High, where she has taught since 2014.
In addition to her classroom experience, Jensen is an instructional coach and certified trainer of trainers for the Classroom Instruction that Works model. She also is an instructional team leader at Lincoln High, facilitates the English Professional Learning Community and is the school's school improvement co-chair. Jensen has been awarded a Golden Telephone Award from Lincoln High and a 2018 Inspire Award from the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools.
Jensen wrote in her teacher of the year application that teaching is a passion built out of curiosity, discovery and the desire to never stop learning.
“I tell my students that I am a teacher because it is what my soul craves,” Jensen wrote. “As a teacher I want my students to happen upon moments of curiosity and discovery. I believe that students learn when presented with authentic opportunities to discuss and process new concepts in a way that provides academic content in partnership with development of soft skills like social awareness, empathy and communication. We absolutely must push ourselves to try new strategies, no matter how far outside of our comfort zones. This is the same message we want for our students - live and learn courageously.”
Jensen will be honored by the State Board of Education at a November luncheon. She also will participate in the National Teacher of the Year competition later this year.
Published: October 11, 2018, Updated: October 18, 2018