Every day she gets up and goes to work with nary a complaint to be heard. She gets kicked, punched, beaten, pinched, her hair pulled, toys and chairs thrown at her, bitten, and slapped. She comes home, talks non-stop about how much she loves her job, and then does it all again.
She has the difficult kids. The ones with labels that the system feels is right for them. The behavior issues. The ones dealing with Autism. The kids the other teachers silently thank the heavens that they don't have to deal with.
She loves her job, and loves those kids even more. She is fiercely protective of them, and it infuriates her to see other teachers throw away the hard work her kids have done when they move up into a new class. She pushes them because she knows they can do it, even if they don't.
She believes in tough love, not only with her students, but with her coworkers. She won't baby them or hold their hand. She'll let them make mistakes, knowing the whole time that their plan will blow up in their face. Also knowing that next time they'll think it through a little harder and do a better job.
She spends hundreds of her own dollars to get her kids the things they need to learn. The things her school can't afford to provide them. She writes proposals on Donors Choose to get the things that she can't afford for them.
She's the only teacher in her school who's hung up the phone on her principal. The student having the meltdown was more important to her than being politically correct. When other teachers have a student with a behavioral problem, they come to her for help. Because she knows what she's doing.
She got her Master's degree while working full time. When asked if she'd go on to get her PhD, she said no. She doesn't want to be overqualified for the job she loves. She doesn't want to teach other people how to do her job. She just wants to do it.
She can't go 15 minutes without sharing a cute or funny story about one of her kids. Her eyes light up at the thought of them, and she'll talk about them for days if you don't change the subject. And yet you never want to, because her excitement and enthusiasm is contagious.
She teaches her kids the social skills they can't learn on their own. She wants them to sound like kids. "That's so cool," and "You're a rock star!" can often be heard in her classroom, rather than "Good job". She taught them to say "Peace out" and has been known to tell a kid to "Man up" every now and again.
She's only in her third year of teaching, and she's one of the final five nominees for Teacher of the Year in her district. A fact she's quite indifferent to. The fact she was nominated in the first place is enough for her. She doesn't need to be recognized for her efforts. In her own words, she knows she "kicks ass."
Whether or not she wins is irrelevant. Ask any parent of any student she's ever worked with, and you'll hear just what an impact she's had on their lives. There's no award that can come close to that.
In the immortal words of one of her favorite students: Hooray Miss Jen!