Appreciating Juneau’s Educators

  • Friday, August 31, 2018 4:17pm
  • News
Jennifer Thompson at an education rally at the Alaska State Capitol. (Courtesy Photo)

Jennifer Thompson at an education rally at the Alaska State Capitol. (Courtesy Photo)

This summer, the Juneau School District said goodbye to Jennifer Thompson, a 25-year veteran primary teacher and founding member of the Juneau STEM Coalition. As we wish Thompson luck on her next great adventure (teaching in Brazil), we want to take time to celebrate her contribution to our schools and our community and to reflect on her practices as an educator. Thompson was a passionate advocate for STEM teaching, working inside and outside of her classroom to make sure all kids receive the highest quality learning experiences possible. We hope that putting words to Thompson’s strengths and contributions helps us also recognize the strengths of the other educators all around us. How can we show the teachers in our lives that we appreciate them and support them in their visions for our children?

Thompson respected kids and their natural curiosity about the world. Her classroom was often loud, sometimes messy, and always full of great questions. “Why do you think that happens?” “How does that feel?” “What do you think will happen?” Every day, students were challenged to explore, think and create. Thompson always made time for STEM learning, even when very prescriptive requirements for reading and math made that difficult. Hers was the kind of classroom that made you want to sit down and join in with the kids.

Thompson herself was always willing to sit down and talk about teaching. She was a leader within the teacher community, serving as a mentor for new teachers in her building and communicating teacher needs to the district — including the need for an updated science curriculum (adopted this year) and support for the elementary science kit center. Even as she prepared to leave Juneau, Thompson kept pushing for STEM opportunities, applying for and receiving a BP STEM Innovation Grant to run an afterschool club targeting underserved students.

Thompson was willing to say yes and find solutions when she was presented with challenges. She had a huge passion for improving her school, her community, and her state. She jumped in to support local organizations she cared about and to support policies and politicians who she thought would advance the causes she cared about. She spent a year in Washington, D.C. as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator establishing connections to a national network of STEM resources and leaders to bring back to Juneau.

As part of the STEM Coalition, Thompson was always quick to help out — with organizing, writing, calling, brainstorming and energizing the rest of us. She was supportive and respectful of others’ ideas and opinionated and clear about her own. She spoke her mind and encouraged better and deeper thinking in our meetings and projects.

Thompson reached out to and found lots of support from the STEM community. She had frequent visitors in her classroom — Tlingit elders, scientists, retired teachers and working parents. She developed a long list of former parents and community members who kept coming back again and again, not only to her classroom, but also to the whole school for Family Science and STEM Nights.

We are very grateful to live in a place with so many hardworking, creative, and passionate teachers. As the school year begins, we’re reminded of the importance of identifying, celebrating, and supporting them all. Thompson’s story is just one of many in the Juneau schools. We, personally, have been inspired by Thompson — to work harder, dream bigger, think more deeply, and venture farther. Who is inspiring you and your children? How are you inspiring the people around you? Please help us build up our community of educators; say thank you and say yes.


• Rebecca Soza and Brenda Taylor are co-chairs of the Juneau STEM Coalition.


More in News

Even as coronavirus numbers are going down and vaccines are being distributed, pandemic-related facilities like the testing site at Juneau International Airport, seen here in this Oct. 12 file photo, are scheduled to remain for some time, according to city health officials. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)
Vaccines are coming, but pandemic facilities will remain

Testing sites and other COVID-19 operations will continue, officials say, but infections are trending down.

White House, tribes joined to deliver Alaska Native vaccines

The initiative has treated Indigenous tribes as sovereign governments and set aside special vaccine shipments.

After violent protesters loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol today, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, left, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., join other senators as they return to the House chamber to continue the joint session of the House and Senate and count the Electoral College votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Murkowski on impeachment: ‘I will listen carefully’ to both sides

As for timing, the senator said, “our priority this week must be to ensure safety in Washington, D.C.”

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Juneau City Hall. The City and Borough of Juneau has distributed nearly $5 million in household and individual assistance grants since October. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
All housing and most personal assistance grants processed

About $5 million in aid is flowing to households and individuals in Juneau.

A child plays at Capital School Park. The park is in line for a remodel that will fix the crumbling retaining wall, visible in the background. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)
A new life is in store for Capital School Park

Public input is helping craft a vision for the park’s voter-approved facelift.

Expected heavy snow and high winds Thursday evening prompted Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to issue a warning of increased avalanche hazard along Thane Road. (File photo)
Avalanche risk increasing along Thane Road

Be careful and plan for the possibility of an extended road closure.

Most Read