CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Marshall County science teacher was recognized Wednesday as the 2020 West Virginia Teacher of the Year.

Jennifer Schwertfeger teaches traditional and college-level science courses at Cameron High School.

“It’s my passion,” she said. “I want to thank my family and my friends for helping me to find my real path in life, and this has been it for sure.”

Schwertfeger and other county teachers of the year were recognized in a ceremony at the Embassy Suites in downtown Charleston.

West Virginia Department of Education

Jennifer Schwertfeger

“She has a real passion for her students, and it shows daily in her classroom, everyone we checked in terms of references, visitations to her classroom, her application … everything just exudes a passion and a care for each and every one of her students,” said Steve Paine, the West Virginia Superintendent of Schools.

Schwertfeger has been in education for 10 years, but did not enter the profession until she was 40 years old. She previously worked in an ophthalmologist office but was encouraged to enter teaching after talking to a friend who was an elementary school teacher.

“I wanted a change in my career, and she said, ‘Why don’t you become a teacher? The high school is near where you live, you have the perfect situation, you have a science degree, and we are in desperate need for science teachers. You would be phenomenal,'” Schwertfeger recalled.

“Best move ever.”

Wednesday also was an important day in Schwertfeger’s life: the second anniversary of her mother’s death.

“I would do anything to have her here right now,” she said. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be standing up there and that’s the truth. I try to pass on every tidbit of knowledge she gave me and my brother exponentially to every student who walks through my classroom door.”

As this year’s award recipient, Schwertfeger will receive a car from Toyota to use to travel to Teacher of the Year engagement; $5,000 from Highmark West Virginia; $5,000 from The Horace Mann Insurance Company; and a $1,000 gift card from Coca-Cola Consolidated.

Each county winner receives a $300 grant from the West Virginia Lottery, a technology package from SMART Technologies; an art glass piece from Blenko Glass; and a care package from Coca-Cola Consolidated, which includes a $500 gift card.