As early as first grade, reading teacher Jenny Kier knew she wanted to be an educator when she grew up.
“Teachers are in the profession of spring-boarding all other professions,” she said. “Name a legitimate profession that did not stem from someone who encountered a teacher. You can’t.”
Kier, who teaches third grade reading at West Columbia Elementary School, won Columbia-Brazoria ISD Elementary Teacher of the Year in August, an honor that is still surreal to her, she said.
“Just a few short years ago, I was sitting in my principal’s office in tears because I felt I had ‘imposter syndrome,’” Kier said. “This is where you honestly feel that you have snuck into a place where you know everyone is out of your league, and you are pretending, to the best of your ability, to fit in.”
Kier, who has been a teacher since 2007, has taught pre-kindergarten, fifth and third grades, she said. She believes communication is vital when it comes to teaching students, Kier said.
“You must have an open line of communication with the child and the parents, and you must be willing and able to form relationships with all parties involved in the child’s educational well-being,” she said. “I do everything in my power to let the child and the parents know that I am on their side. It takes a village to raise a child is so cliché but it has never been more true than it is today.”
Kier grew up in West Columbia and it is a special experience to be able to teach in her hometown, she said.
“I am blessed to have an insider point of view on all of the children that come through my classroom,” she said. “I understand the close-knit culture. Many times, I have the children of my own former classmates. We are really one big family.”
It isn’t about awards or recognition because what makes her wake up and come to class every day is the hope is that the students who grace her classroom leave with a sense of responsibility, Kier said.
“I have very high expectations and I am a demanding teacher, but I feel this is OK,” she said. “I demand they become responsible for their actions and for their work. I don’t ‘baby’ them. I love them too much to hinder their self-sufficiency. Third grade is a huge transitional year for students. They grow up a lot, and I can always tell such a difference in students from August to May.”
When you find teachers who have a natural talent and true desire to guide students, it helps the culture of the school district, Superintendent Steven Galloway said.
“We look for passion,” he said. “You gotta love it when people are in it for the right reasons. That is just great. She wants a challenge.”
Teachers take on so many different roles and she feels a responsibility to be there for her students in any capacity each year, Kier said.
“I am a teacher, but I am also a caregiver, an advice-giver, a parental figure, a liaison, a friend, a confidant, a leader, a protector, a first responder,” she said.