Thomas Jefferson

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Have You Heard the Word?

Posted 10/30/2015 by Michael Katsman

Jennifer Stephenson finishes up her lesson plans for the next day. photo by Michael Katsman

A new Spartan English teacher is one for the books.

Thomas Jefferson High School welcomes a new addition to the English department, Jennifer Stephenson. Stephenson, who student taught with former English teacher and current CCT teacher, Matthew Santambrogio, now teaches Honors Introduction to Literature (Intro to Lit) and Composition and AP Language and Composition. “Ms. Stephenson definitely has a passion about the subject,” commented Santambrogio, “she is really involved and she is really cognizant of what she is teaching.”

Stephenson had a realization that teaching would be her vocation back when she was a high school student. She began as a tutor helping her fellow students who struggled to understand the curriculum. “I always remember how much fun it was and how good it felt to help someone understand something. It was kind of a series of accidents that lead to [Stephenson becoming a teacher], but I think that’s the first time I’ve ever thought about it,” she explained. Stephenson attended the University of Denver for one year where she majored in creative writing, then transferred to Metropolitan State University where she pursued her teaching career, majoring in English with a minor in Secondary Education.

Stephenson’s overall goal for her classes is her students’ improvement and ability to “grow and be prepared for the next level.” Personally, she wants to create a connection with her students and be a guiding figure to help them through the year. For her Intro to Lit classes she aims to improve her students’ writing significantly. “I don’t think that middle schools stress writing as much as they do reading comprehension,” Stephenson said. “I want those students to become more fluent writers.” Freshman Selena Pierre described, “She’s fun and makes us do our work while being laid back.” For her AP Language classes, Stephenson has the same goals, but from a more advanced standpoint. Her students should be able to “pick apart arguments and be able to counter them in an effective way,” Stephenson mentioned. Junior Amber Mosley stated, “Ms. Stephenson is interesting because she always has that positive attitude.” Stephenson creates a fun learning environment and “a bridge for the students to herself,” Mosley added.

Outside of TJ, Stephenson enjoys spending time with her two dogs. “Cuddling with them is the first thing I do when I get up and the last thing before sleeping,” she said. In addition to cuddling with her puppies, she likes to hike, camp, read, write, and cook. Her passion about animals, environmentalism, and nature in general is how Stephenson decompresses. In ten years, she sees herself teaching at TJ, but “better off as far as skills as a teacher,” Stephenson added.

Stephenson believes that prioritization is crucial to the success of teachers and students. “What do you have to absolutely get done and what can wait?” For her, and teachers in general, having lesson plans complete and filled out is the most important thing to have ready to go for the next day. “I can’t just wing it, but I might be able to hold off on grading this certain assignment for a little while because it’s not immediately necessary,” added Stephenson. If students are falling behind in one of their core classes, they should take care of that first. “If you play sports or are in a club, those secondaries make high school fun, but don’t stress out over that if you have something else on your plate,” she explained. Similarly, for prospective college students, it is critical to not fall behind on work. “In college they aren’t going to check your work or hunt you down if you don’t do an assignment. They are going to give you the midterm, the final, and the projects. It’s up to you to take care of your business.”

Stephenson has plenty of availability to help her students with their work. She is available around 6:45 in the morning, during first period, and for at least one hour after school. Students may also meet with her during office hours, or schedule a time with her. Stephenson wants to see her students thrive, so when students need help she is happy to provide it. Stephenson is passionate about teaching and enhances the Spartan Community through her classes.