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So Long, Farewell

This coming week will be the last for the 2008-2009 school year at Metz. What a wonderful experience it has been for me to be able to share what has been going on in my classroom all year. I believe that all teachers, new and experienced, have things to learn from each other. It is in this exchange of ideas that we become better educators for our own students and colleagues.

This past year brought some exciting things for me. I started out the year being awarded the James F. Veninga Outstanding Teacher of the Humanities Award by U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett. It was such an honor to have such a great statesman visit the Metz campus. I was particularly proud of this statewide award because it recognizes my work in the area of social studies, a passion of mine. I was the only elementary teacher to ever be given the top honor of the James F. Veninga award from Humanities Texas.


Me & Lloyd D

Congessman Doggett and I at Metz in October of 2009.

B Bd Lloyd D

The incredible bulletin board Mrs. Heimsath's 4th grade class created in honor of Congressman's Doggett's visit to Metz. This was with out a doubt one of the most special things any one has ever done for me at Metz. Thank you again to Sandi and her students! 

I was also had the distinction of winning the H.E.B. Excellence in Education Award in the Leadership category. This too is an accolade that covers all of Texas. Only five finalists are selected, one from each region of Texas. This was also a very meaningful recognition because finalists are chosen by professional colleagues: fellow teachers, state board members, principals, PTA representatives etc. The final celebratory event was postponed until the weekend of June 12th because of the H1N1 virus, so wish me luck that weekend, I may be able to win $10,000 for my campus with my final interview!

HEB Cake

My little sweeties couldn't wait to get their hands on the huge cake the H.E.B. representatives brought on their surprise visit to let me know I was a finalist for their award. It was a wonderful surprise!


Finally, for the past year, my 1st grade students have been engaged in a project that taught them all about the land, people, animals and culture of Africa. Their work was so outstanding and full of depth that they were awarded The Spotlight on Education Award from Time Warner Cable and was a finalist in the national category. We didn’t make it to D.C. this year but we were very proud to be saluted in the statewide category and excited that our venture was outstanding enough to be chosen as a national finalist. I am already brewing up some ideas for special projects for next year!

TWC A is For Africa  

Debbie Morrison of TWC and Valerie Galbraith my principal surprise my students and I with the news! 

Meerkat 8 x 10 Full Title

My fantastic friend and photoshop god Nathat Yost created this for our project. I printed a copy for all of my students to have as keepsakes as well.

Isn’t that one of the great things about teaching? As each year ends you can take what you have learned and spend some time to reflect, reorganize, enhance your skills, expand your knowledge base and gear yourself up to start fresh again!


This summer I will be working with our districts Advanced Academics department and be a presenter at the A.I.S.D. New Teacher Academy. Working with the advanced Academic Department will allow me to delve a bit more deeply into differentiated instruction, which goes hand in hand with another program I began to implement and learn this year with the University of Texas Urban Education Pilot ProgramResponse To Intervention. My 1st grade partner Jennifer Moody and I have been working in conjunction with representatives from The University of Texas to master this program and with a little more exploration and analysis, we will be ready to bring it into our classrooms full force in August. I will also have my student intern, Jennifer Decker, back with me for another semester as my student teacher. She is a part of the educational cohort trained in RTI, so it promises to be an engaging experience for us both. Having three Jennifer’s all within 20 feet of each other gets a little confusing at times but I wouldn’t want it any other way!


I just finished writing a couple of grants to update my school’s literacy bookroom and I have written a grant for myself which will help support my interest in using technology in my lesson planning and with my students. I am actually not very tech savvy but I keep learning little by little and this grant will just help propel me a bit further should I be awarded the funding.


Inspired by my work as a Scholastic Teacher Advisor, I have began the undertaking of writing for my own website TeachingInAustin.com. My amazing little sister Erin McHardy is a graphic design artist and has created the design for the website and is currently teaching me all of the “how to’s” of updating it and uploading content. My goal is to have it completely ready by the end of July of this year, so please bookmark it now, check it out at the beginning of August and add to the conversation! As I said before we all have a lot to learn from each other!

Erin & I  

My sensational sister and I out country swing dancing at The Broken Spoke.

I know my students have had a blast being able to share their work with all of you. I am always glad to have had the opportunity to get to know each and every one of my students and will continue to support them in any way that I can as they progress on their educational journey. Metz is a very loving school and it is a pleasure to be able to continue to have connections with previous students as the years pass by, even if it is just a quick hug or a high five as you walk down the hallway. I always tell my students “I am just your teacher for 1st grade but I am your friend for life.”

Monkey Kids!  

One final look at the little monkeys who stole my heart this past year!

On a personal note I joined a gym and have promised to take more time for myself this summer and upcoming school year. I am really not one to sweat it out on a treadmill very often but I will take the yoga and dancing classes which seem much more entertaining! It is amazing how much time teaching well takes and while I still want to be the best educator I can for my for my students, I also need to be good to myself. Summer break is a smart time to establish new habits.


I will also be fulfilling a life long dream this summer of beginning to learn how to play the piano! One of my best friends, jazz musician Marc Devine, sold me his beautiful upright when he moved to New York in January. I am a recent first time homeowner and can have a piano without the worries of moving it around. My piano has been waiting patiently for me to play it, and now that summer approaches, the lessons will finally begin! I am thrilled to think about losing myself in the sound of my own playing- even if my sound is not the best!


I am also going to read the stack of books on my bedside table, walk my new pups Ruby & Redd (my rescued Dachshunds) every day, swing dance around Austin as much as possible, lay on my new hammock and listen to the woods behind my house, snuggle on the couch with my sweetie Grant and celebrate my 40th birthday! After all it is summertime and the livin’ is easy.


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share a little piece of my world with you. I hope you continue to use Scholastic.com as your primary educational resource as it has so much to offer in so many areas. It is true the Scholastic team continually strives to find ways to make their site better for you to help make your days in the classroom a little easier! I myself look forward to hearing about the new teacher advisors for the 2009-2010 school year and to begin reading all of their wonderful ideas!


“I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye” ~ The Sound of Music


Janet Benaski

You are so awesome! Thanks for the update.


Thank you for a great year and your amazing contributions. You have been an exemplary colleague for your fellow teachers and all your efforts are much appreciated! Good luck to you and have a wonderful summer.

Amy Borrell

Jennifer: Thanks for the journey through your year. You inspire us with your ideas and exciting approach to learning.

Comments are closed. Please see Classroom Solutions, our new blog for the 2009-2010 school year. And stay tuned for Teaching Matters with Angela Bunyi and Beth Newingham.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Jennifer's 1st Grade Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.