There are many educators deserving of recognition and awards, doing untold good and service for thousands of students. Jennifer Sorensen certainly stands out, even among an elite group such as this. For the nearly twenty years I have known her, she has been an incredible example and mentor to fellow teachers. Jennifer has been an educator in the fullest sense of the word to thousands of students, instilling confidence, determination, and an educational foundation upon which many amazing lives have been built. As an art teacher, she has not only inspired students to become artists themselves, but to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, executives, and dozens of other noble pursuits. And perhaps even more importantly, she has so inspired a generation of students that those students are now perpetuating those lessons and passing them on to a new generation.
Like many other nominees, Jennifer Sorensen has an impressive vitae. She has been involved with Community Councils, Centennial Schools, Accreditation, curriculum collaboration projects, USOE Art Curriculum, local art councils and organizations, yearbook, cheerleaders, and department head. She has taught Art, Crafts, Yearbook, English, and Reading at Snowcrest Junior High for twenty years. She has founded and created local art shows for her students and other local artists to have an opportunity to show their work to the public. Jennifer has been helping the lives of her students in countless ways, but as Albert Einstein once said, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." The true measure of Jennifer Sorensen’s impact can not be counted or measured in by this list of accomplishments and organizational memberships. It comes from the individual success stories from scores of former students and from lessons they learned and attribute to her.
Jennifer has one of the most difficult positions in education. She teaches and lives within the same small community. While it is an incredible and amazing area, it is still very challenging to live and teach within such a small, close-knit community. She is never able to stop being a teacher. Jennifer is never able to “relax” or “let her guard down” because she is constantly surrounded by her students and their families. She is always expected to be their teacher, whether it is shopping at the one (and only) grocery store servicing the community, collecting her mail at the post office, or even at church on Sunday. Jennifer has always lived up to that expectation and is a perfectly consistent model of exactly what a teacher should be.
Perhaps the most impressive attribute and reason for her nomination is the relationship she develops with students. Jennifer is that rare teacher with the perfect balance of fun, learning, respect and discipline within her class and within each student relationship. She genuinely values what each student brings to her class and can contribute to society. Even more importantly, she gets students to believe that they have value and can contribute to society. I have watched students with very little confidence in their artistic ability blossom and explode with confidence in her class. As a teacher at the smallest school in Weber School District – Snowcrest has less than 5% of the secondary students in the district – her students have dominated District art shows for the past two decades. Many of the Best of Show pieces purchased by the District have been from Jennifer Sorenson’s art students. She honestly believes in her students and sees the very best in them.
There might be teachers with longer lists of accomplishments and honors received, but there are no teachers more deserving of the Weber School District Teacher of the Year than Jennifer Sorensen. She is a master in the profession of education and has impacted thousands with her quiet, unassuming methods. Numerous parents have applauded and supported this nomination, voicing their backing for her.
Jennifer was also nominated for The Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education this year. The challenge presented in that nomination was not finding six people to support Jennifer Sorensen’s nomination, but to limit the supporting endorsements to only six. Each student, parent, and colleague expressed unfettered support and enthusiasm for her nomination. Below are comments of support in conjunction with that nomination that are also appropriate to be included in this nomination. Current Weber District School Board Member, Cheryl Ferrin, replied:
“I am delighted to recommend Jennifer Sorensen for the Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education. It (is) always a rewarding experience to observe the enriched environment that she creates for her students. Most adults are impressed with (her) methods of teaching and sharing her love of art. However, it is the students that are the most important measure of a successful teacher. I was thrilled to have four of my children learn to love art under her direction. One of my children is now a teacher and every day shares the love of art and learning she learned from Jennifer Sorensen. She never thought herself much of an artist until she learned from Mrs. Sorensen that everyone can draw or paint or sculpt. She was inspired to go into education because of Jennifer Sorensen.”
The parent of a former student, Janeal Capron, is so appreciative of the work Jennifer did with her severely handicapped son, Michael Doman. Michael is wheelchair bound and has difficulty communicating. Most of his educational experience was sitting in a classroom or working with Special Education teachers. However, in an effort to enhance Michael’s education, he was put in Jennifer’s art class. Despite having a class full of other students, Jennifer worked with him individually and developed a relationship with Michael to the extent that he began to get visibly excited when it was time for art class. Ms. Capron has been so appreciative of a Jennifer taking so much extra time for Michael. Even though this was several years ago, Michael still continues to get excited when his mom talks about art with him. She feels is it was his single best and most enriching experience in education. Ms. Capron talked about how Michael wasn’t able to come home and talk about his day with her. If something good or bad happened to him, the only way she could really find out about it was from one of his teachers. But Michael always had his way of telling her how much he loved going to Jennifer Sorensen’s class. He couldn’t tell her how things went and what happened in school, but when she would ask him about art his face would light up and he would happily rock back and forth in his wheelchair. She made an impact on this young man that might not change THE world, but it changed HIS world.
Snowcrest Junior High students go on to attend Weber High School. An art teacher of thirty-plus years from Weber High School observed this about Jennifer Sorensen, “I never talked to a student who didn’t like her class. Her students come to Weber High with a fantastic foundation of art and an even more incredible ability to create art. Jennifer led all students to believe they were artists, and not all students from other schools came here believing that, but hers all did. I hate admitting that someone is better at something than I might be, but she is the best art teacher I have ever been associated with. If anyone ever deserved the Huntsman Awards, it is Jennifer Sorensen.”
Another parent and volunteer at Snowcrest equally supports and praises Jennifer Sorensen. Erin Taggart states, “Jennifer Sorensen has taught all five of my children at Snowcrest. In my experience, she is the best teacher that Snowcrest has ever had. I was her aid for a year and I watched her encourage and coach each student and help them evaluate and improve their work. There are two annual art exhibits at the school (and a third one she does for the community at the public library branch in Huntsville). Each time Jennifer spends an additional 30-40 hours hanging and displaying pieces for the exhibit. This always includes work from every student. She truly makes them feel valued. In my eyes, there is not a better, more dedicated teacher anywhere than Jennifer Sorensen.”
Rebecca Warnes, a former student of Jennifer Sorensen says this about her, “I am currently teaching at Valley Elementary in Weber School District. I have had the pleasure of interacting with Mrs. Sorensen as my art teacher, yearbook advisor, mentor, friend, neighbor and now colleague. She has inspired my every step in my journey to become a teacher. I am so grateful to her, for I did not realize my love of art until I entered her classes in Junior High. I went on to excel in my artistic skills, take AP art courses, compete for the Art Sterling Scholar position at Weber High and eventually earn my Art Emphasis/Minor while working towards my own teaching degree. Jennifer Sorensen launched me onto my path in life. I will never forget her dedication, patience, encouragement and inspiration. I hope I can carry that torch for my own students as wonderfully as she did for me.”
A former teacher and current administrator who taught with Jennifer for several years, explained his support for her with the following, “I began my educational career as a brand new, first year teacher at Snowcrest. Jennifer had already been teaching at Snowcrest for 5 or 6 years by the time I started. I remember during that first year of teaching, it seemed like very little of what they told us in the university turned out to be true in the “real world.” But one thing that was just like we were told in college was working with Jennifer Sorensen. I taught English, History and Geography. She would regularly come to me and ask what we were studying in my Geography classes so she could talk about art from that part of the world with her 9th grade students. She wanted to know what books we were studying in English so she could teach about art that related to the themes within the books or have her students create art that corresponded to a paper they were writing in their English class with me. I have not worked with a teacher that is more student-centered and collaborative minded than Jennifer Sorensen. She not only helped her students to learn and become better people, I honestly believe she helped me to learn and become a better teacher and now administrator through her work with me. Jennifer deserves all the accolades that can be showered upon her.”
As you consider the nominations for this award, Jennifer Sorensen must be considered as one of the top teachers and well deserving of the honor of receiving the Weber School District Teacher of the Year Award. She has positively impacted the lives of not only her students, but her fellow educators, community members and all with whom she associates. Her influence follows students over a lifetime and the lessons and confidence they learn help them in countless other ways. She is an outstanding representative of the teaching profession. Therefore, with the utmost confidence, belief and trust in her, I present Jennifer Sorensen’s nomination for the Weber School District Teacher of the Year for 2011.
Principal, Snowcrest Junior High School