Jennifer Thomas, an instructional coach and English-language arts teacher in San Jose, was named to receive the $10,000 Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence during the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Awards Gala Feb. 8 in Washington, D.C., an event described as the “Academy Awards of Public Education.”
Her students have already benefited from her award. This past fall, they received digital arts training and created an original video honoring their teacher, which premiered at the gala. See the video her students created at www.cta.org/jenniferthomas.
Thomas earned a B.A. from San Jose State University with a major in psychology and a minor in social work. She also earned her teaching credential there in 2003. Her alma mater honored her with the Dorothy Wright Teaching Award twice, in 2006 and 2010. An active CTA member for her entire career, she is president of the San Jose Teachers Association. Here’s what she had to say when we caught up with her.
Congratulations! Tell us about your teaching.
My teaching style is highly responsive to the student needs in the classroom. I do, however, always approach things with a sense of humor, flexibility, and a genuine affection for the students who are entrusted to me. My classroom is consistently a place that is free from sarcasm and small-mindedness; a place to challenge or justify a perspective; a place to explore the thoughts, words, and wisdom of the ages. If I do it right, it's also a lot of fun.
What are you going to wear to the gala?
That's the second thing my mom asked me. I have a beautiful dress in the back of my closet that has just been waiting for the right occasion. Until the NEA awards, I just had to hope that there would one day be a black-tie PTA meeting. Now the pressure is off of the PTA and the dress is ready for its debut.
Any plans for the $10,000 award?
I imagine my husband and I will do what most of us coping with the uncertainty of these times do — take care of our obligations, set some aside for a rainy day, perhaps go out to a fancy dinner. We've been sharing a car for over a year now and we'll definitely stop doing that. I might finally join the smartphone revolution, but I think that might just encourage me to check my e-mail more.
The NEA Foundation
The NEA Foundation is a public charity supported by contributions from educators’ dues, corporate sponsors, and others. Visit www.neafoundation.org for more information.