CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Jennifer Schwertfeger, West Virginia’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, didn’t decide to go into education until she was past age 40. She had a comfortable position working for two well known ophthalmologists, but felt the time had come for a change.
“When my children were of junior high age, I was ready for a change, but I wanted something where I could be with them and still enjoy all the events they were going through,” she said during an appearance Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline” broadcasting live from the state capitol.
Schwertfeger was able to apply her education in the classroom at Cameron High School in Marshall County where she teaches STEM classes. Her teaching is based on a method she called “phenomenon first.” The idea, according to Schwertfeger, is to grab the students attention fast with whatever concept she’s trying to teach.
“By giving them the experience first and providing them with background knowledge that not all of them have, really helps them to focus in on the concept I am trying to teach, it allows them to learn the skill they are going to need when they go out into the real world,” Schwertfeger said.
Schwertfeger, who was named teacher of the year during a September ceremony in Charleston, said her concept is born out of the times in which we live. Students today are constantly bombarded with information form a whole cadres of places and there is vast competition for their attention. She believes it’s why her idea of the “phenomena first ” is so successful.
Schwertfeger was at the state capitol to be recognized by Gov. Jim Justice. She also was able to sit in the Toyota car she’ll have use of during the next year.
During a ceremony in the governor’s reception room, Schwertfeger said she was looking forward to traveling around the state and learning from other teachers. She also said she challenges every West Virginian to become an advocate for education.
“United we can lend our voices, our talents and ideas to confront the many obstacles that young people face by offering them the highest quality education possible,” she said. “It’s an absolute necessity for our future and for theirs.”